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Everything is bigger in Texas, including the rate of uninsured

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the rate of uninsured

Picture of Veronica Zaragovia
Texas Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston
Texas Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, one of the most vocal supporters of expanding Medicaid eligibility in Texas, speaks about Medicaid at the 2014 Texas Democratic Convention in Dallas on June 27, 2014.

In Texas, a lot of things really are larger than life – especially the drama in politics. I saw it first-hand while reporting last legislative session on the rhetoric around the Affordable Care Act and the rollout of the federal health insurance marketplace. Even seems fitting that HBO has chosen Texas politics as the star of a new series. But while the drama is entertaining, a lot of people in Texas are hurting. The state leads the nation in the rate of uninsured people, and Democrats and Republicans have starkly different views on how the Affordable Care Act would -- or would not -- chip away at that rate, more than 25 percent of the population.

Leading up to the launch of the federal health insurance marketplace, I reported on Obamacare 101 – stories explained, for instance, what the exchange is, where to get help in Texas and why insurance rates differ between rural towns and cities like Austin. I followed volunteers knocking on doors to spread the word, I interviewed navigators who, in Texas, must complete additional training than the federally-mandated course hours and spoke and spoke to people like a tattoo artist who had no intention of buying health insurance and preferred to pay a tax penalty in 2015.

Over the next six months or so, I will be covering the second phase of Obamacare in Texas, surely looking at whether more Latinos are getting insured, since Latinos compose the majority of the uninsured in Texas and they’ll be the majority population by 2020. I’ll look at how the marketplace is different when enrollment opens again in November and report on what Texans can expect to hear from lawmakers when the return to the State Capitol building in Austin next January. I look forward to taking many of the lessons we learn in Los Angeles back to Austin. I do love covering debates on Medicaid expansion, for instance, but what I love most is helping Texans make sense of what the health insurance law means for them.

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