Texas Health Scare: Helping vs Hurting

Here’s more evidence that Texas GOP Congress members really are in a pickle over the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), despite what they say to the contrary. From reporter Emily Wilkins of the Dallas Morning News

Aides to Dallas Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s office recently said that he would gladly help any constituent having trouble enrolling in a health plan under the Affordable Care Act.

“Providing outstanding constituent service is a top priority,” an aide said, and that includes “their dealings with all federal agencies and bureaucracies.”

The next morning, Hensarling joined other House Republicans in voting for the 41st time to repeal the law. That illustrates how Texas Republicans are in the position of helping constituents with a program they are simultaneously attempting to derail as the next major step of Obamacare is drawing near.

On Oct. 1, the insurance marketplace will open and 6 million uninsured Texans must pick a plan or face a tax penalty. Organizations working to help North Texans understand the new health care act said they haven’t heard much from federal lawmakers. [note: the enrollment period starts October 1st, 2013 and ends March 31st, 2014.]

“I’ll leave it up to their offices to determine if they feel responsibility to get the word out,” said Tim McKinney, chief executive of United Way of Tarrant County. “I would hope they would.”


Texas Republicans in Congress universally oppose the new health care law. But a sampling found none who said they would turn away constituents with problems accessing its benefits.

Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, calls the law “bad for America” and contends it has the potential to destroy the economy. But he’s kept his staff in touch with the Department of Health and Human Services. And Burgess arranged a meeting with the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services after he felt he wasn’t getting as much information as he needed.

“I’ll share with anyone who calls the information I have,” Burgess said.

Even Sen. Ted Cruz, a leader in efforts to strip funding for implementation of the law, promised to help Texans participate if they call.

“I am honored to represent 26 million Texans,” he recently told CNN. “And dealing with the government is inherently frustrating. It’s inherently confusing, and one of the things our office takes very seriously is trying to help Americans deal with the government.”

To be clear, when the Republicans threaten to “defund Obamacare” they’re basically telling a bald-faced lie. Whatever your conception of Obamacare may be, we are already living under much of the law’s provisions, and reaping substantial benefits from them. Right now, several provisions of the Affordable Care Act are Federal law, including…

— guaranteed coverage for all children with pre-existing conditions.

the right to appeal a health care claim that is denied.

— extension for young adults to stay on their parent’s plan until age 26. That includes anyone that is married or not even living with parents.

— the eradication of lifetime limits. That means if you get sick with an expensive disease, your insurance company can’t drop you once health care expenses pass a certain point.

And a whole lot more. With 20 states already participating in the ACA Medicaid Expansion, millions of Americans now have access to affordable care that they previously did not have available. All of these changes are part of Obamacare. So when the GOP runs around and says they want to repeal it, what they really want to do is take away your right to appeal, stop covering children with pre-existing conditions restore lifetime limits on coverage, and yank Medicaid coverage for the millions that received it under the expansion. They are also betting on you not being able to read, talk to someone about the law, and discover for yourself why so many of these changes are important. This is what they are threatening a government shut-down for… to ruin people’s lives who are already benefitting from Obamacare.

Which is what is so laughable about this article… the audacity of them to proclaim how horrible the Affordable Care Act is, but then to simultaneously be a valuable government resource on the law for their constituents? Do they know that by pledging to “help” their constituents enroll and navigate the exchanges, they are actually making the law even more impossible to dismantle than it already is? 

Senator Ted Cruz is correct on one point… he and his offices do in fact represent all 26 million Texans in the United States Senate, and some of those 26 million Texans will enroll using the Healthcare Exchange. The same goes for Senator Cornyn, Congressman Ted Poe, and all the other 35 Congressional Representatives. But on this issue, the Republicans are not representing Texas very well.

As my former choir director says, “At any point in time, you can only be doing one of two things… helping or hurting. You can’t do both at the same time.” Despite what they may say to reporters, the Texas GOP is squarely in the HURTING column on Obamacare, and the general welfare of the people they serve. They continue to lie and misinform Texans about the provisions of the existing law, and new provisions coming up. Rather than helping constituents to understand the law and it’s wide-range of changes, they skip all substantive information, and instead champion creepy ads like the one from Koch Brothers’ spawn Generation Opportunity.

So please, whatever you do, don’t believe the GOP when they say they’re going to “help” constituents with any part of the Affordable Care Act. The only things they want to help are their political careers.

Previous articles in the Texas Health Scare Series: The Silent Majority, What’s Our Alternative?, MediCaid or CrisisCaid?, and Why Medicaid Matters.