Texas To Help Low-Income Residents Purchase Health Insurance

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The Texas Health and Human Services Commissionlast week submitted a plan to the federal government that wouldredistribute Medicaid funds for safety-net hospitals to help low-incomeresidents purchase health insurance, the Dallas Morning News reports (Garrett, Dallas Morning News,12/5). Commission spokesperson Stephanie Goodman on Thursday said thestate would divert $246 million from hospitals to create the HealthOpportunity Pool, which would provide subsidies based on a slidingscale for residents to purchase insurance (Perotin, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 12/6).

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Underthe program, working Texas residents ages 19 or older could apply forsubsidies to pay health insurance premiums for private oremployer-sponsored coverage. Texas HHS Commissioner Albert Hawkins saidthat about 2.1 million adults would be eligible for subsidies and thatfunding would be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis (Dallas Morning News, 12/5).

The state has about 5.5 million uninsured residents (MacLaggan, Austin American-Statesman,12/6). The program initially would target the 480,000 uninsured parentsand siblings of children enrolled in SCHIP. Having a family member inSCHIP means they would meet income requirements for the subsidy,according to the Star-Telegram (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 12/6). "We want to create a culture of insurance in our state," Hawkins said (Austin American-Statesman, 12/6).

Hawkinssaid that the state's safety-net hospitals would not lose funding underthe program because lawmakers approved $150 million in reimbursementincreases in 2008 for hospitals that treat Medicaid beneficiaries,which would be matched by $246 million in federal funding. According toHawkins, the additional federal funding could be used to fund theHealth Opportunity Pool without reducing the $1.5 billion in federalfunds hospitals receive annually for treating a disproportionate shareof uninsured, low-income patients (Dallas Morning News, 12/5).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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