Despite the best efforts of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and his successor Greg Abbott, Obamacare is helping Texans. Since enrollment in the individual health insurance system began in the fall of 2013, a new study from Episcopal Health Foundation and Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy has found, the number of people reporting problems paying their medical expenses has dropped almost 15 percent.
“The fact that Texans had fewer problems paying their medical bills in 2015 is good news,” said Vivian Ho, the chair in health economics at Rice’s Baker Institute and director of the institute's Center for Health and Biosciences, a professor of economics at Rice and a professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “One reason fewer Texans are having problems paying medical bills is because more Texans now have health insurance. However, one in five Texans still has problems affording health care. And it’s no surprise our data show the uninsured and those with lower incomes continue to struggle paying those bills more than anyone else.”
The report found 30 percent of uninsured Texans reported problems paying their health care costs in 2015, down from 35 percent in 2013. Researchers found just 20 percent of those with health insurance said they had problems paying medical bills last year, down from 23 percent in 2013.
These findings echo the Kaiser Family Foundation/New York Times survey released early this week, showing that there's still a good percentage of people with health insurance who can't keep up with their medical costs. That survey found that 20 percent of the national population with insurance, just like in Texas, couldn't keep up with bills.
It's worth noting that this is a problem primarily in employer-sponsored plans, not Obamacare, since the latter makes up such a small portion of the insured population. But the kind of cost-cutting emphasized in the law, and in other policy prescriptions for keeping overall health spending down, is a big part of the problem. The emphasis has been on making people use less health care through things like high deductibles and copays. It's shifting costs to the patient, and for many people, not using health care isn't actually an option. They just have to pay a lot more for it.
That's not at all to say that Obamacare wasn't a necessary and extremely helpful reform. Because look at Texas, where they fought every bit of this tooth and nail and still a significant number of people were significantly helped. It's to say that there's still work to be done on healthcare reform.
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