The state's form of the public option - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

9/13/09

The state's form of the public option

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By Brittany Pieper  - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -The public option is a hot topic all over the news these days. Several Democrats want it, but most Republican law makers argue adamantly against it. It's no secret many conservative Texas law makers oppose a public option in federal healthcare reform, so you might be surprised to find out the largely Republican state of Texas has offered a form of the public option for years.

"Simply put, it will mean that as folks go about their everyday lives, one thing they won't have to worry as much about is their healthcare," said President Barack Obama about his healthcare reform plan. 

As Democrats push for the public option, Republicans worry about big government and cost. "There is very little, if anything, in this package that calls for real spending reduction," said Senator John McCain. 

Texas State Representative Delwin Jones said, "I think it's very disruptive when you start trying to get federal bureaucracy, get into the healthcare program."

However, more than half the states in the nation already have a form of the public option, including Texas. "Well, it would be a public option since it's available to the citizens of the state," said Jones of the Texas Health Insurance Pool. 

Almost 27,000 Texans pay into and receive health insurance from the state run insurance pool. The state legislature created the pool in 1996 to provide health insurance to Texas residents who could not obtain coverage from commercial insurers due to medical conditions, but Jones says it's not meant for everyone. "It is set up for extreme cases. It's not intended to take care of everyone," said Jones. 

The plan has a higher premium than other options, a limit of $2 million of coverage per person, and only accepts those who prove they cannot receive coverage through a private company, but it provides an important service to those with a preexisting condition. Jones says while it is a public option, "I think it's a positive state of giving indication that we do care about people and we want to help people as much as reasonably possible, so i think it's a positive."  However he thinks it differs from a federal public option because of its restrictions, "I don't think it would be a positive thing if we just said anybody that wants to have insurance benefits call us and we'll just put your name on the list."

A census bureau report released recently says Texas leads the nation in uninsured residents at 25.1 %.

The Texas Health Insurance Pool is just for those who cannot receive health care because of medical reasons. There is also an option available in Lubbock County to those who cannot afford the care.

Through the Hospital District, Lubbock County has a program called the Lubbock County Medical Indigent Program. It's designed to provide healthcare to those who fall below a certain income requirements, but do not have other insurance opportunities, Medicare, or Medicaid. "They can qualify for the Lubbock County Medical Indigent Program and receive both primary care and hospital services paid for by the Hospital District," said UMC Vice President, Greg Bruce. 

Currently, a single person who makes less than $900 dollars a month could qualify if they can't get other insurance.

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