Top federal health official again visits Texas


DALLAS (AP) — Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell made another trip to Texas on Monday to encourage residents to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, while those helping to get people signed up said they are seeing a steady number of inquiries.

Burwell made stops in the San Antonio area and in Dallas. She was in Houston last week and has promised to make frequent visits to Texas, which has the nation’s highest rate of residents without medical insurance, during the second enrollment period.


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“In one year alone in our nation, 10.3 million adults are no longer uninsured … and we want to build on that record,” she said during her Dallas stop.


Burwell is trumpeting the White House’s signature health care law in a state full of Republicans who oppose it. Texas declined to set up its own insurance exchange as Gov. Rick Perry staunchly opposed the health care overhaul.


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Between October 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, the first enrollment period, 733,757 individuals in Texas selected an insurance plan. The second enrollment period started on Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 15.


Mimi Garcia, Texas’ state director for Enroll America, a nonprofit established to educate people about the ACA, said the group’s outreach has included almost 60 enrollment events across the state since the second rollout started.


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“The interest has been strong,” she said, adding that in addition to people looking to sign up for the first time, they are also seeing people who want to change the plan they previously signed up for.


Dr. Robert Morrow, senior medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, the state’s largest health insurer, said that for the second rollout their efforts include adding representatives, expanding hours and offering in-person assistance at some Target and H-E-B retail stores in Dallas, Houston and Austin. They also have two mobile assistance centers and one recreational vehicle traveling across the state.


“So far we are seeing quite solid volume through our call centers and also really strong traffic, quite a bit of traffic, on our online application,” Morrow said.