A Health Care Marketplace Especially for Texas

A big part of health reform is the health insurance exchange, the competitive marketplace where Texans who don't have health care now or want to buy it from someplace new, will be able to find and purchase their coverage. Last year, the Center for Public Policy Priorities put out a great primer on exchanges that explained an exchange this way:

An exchange is a competitive marketplace for health insurance--think of Travelocity for airplane tickets and Amazon for books--that will give consumers more control, quality choices, and better protections when buying health insurance. Individuals, small businesses, and members of Congress will be able to buy coverage in the exchange starting in 2014. Sliding-scale federal subsidies will be available through the exchange to low- and moderate-income families to help ensure coverage is affordable.

Last year, during the legislative session, Texas had a chance to create its own competitive marketplace for health insurance, one especially designed with the flexibility and focus that would match up with what Texans need. Because the legislature passed on the chance, our Texas health insurance exchange, at least initially, will be a federal one.

Despite that, it's not too late to call on the governor and the Texas legislature to get to work on creating a Texas exchange. After the Supreme Court ruling came down, our campaign in partnership with 16 other groups called on state leaders to do just that. As the Center noted in its primer, it's still not too late for Texas to act so we wind up with the best possible health care exchange in our state:

To be sure Texas has a state-run exchange, Texas has to demonstrate to the federal government by January 1, 2013 that the state will be ready to launch an exchange one year later. [Since a bill was] not passed during the regular 2011 session, one would have to be passed in a special session before 2013. But to be judged ready, Texas will have to do much more than just have a law on the books. We will also have to have the necessary planning, design, and IT systems work done.

If Texas leaders choose to postpone . . . action on a Texas exchange, at a minimum, the state must continue to apply for and use federal exchange establishment grants. This funding will allow Texas state agencies to do the extensive background work and preparation needed . . . to demonstrate that Texas could be ready to open a state-run exchange.

As the map below, which you can click on to enlarge, shows, Texas is in the company of a handful of states that are lagging behind on taking any action at all on an exchange. It doesn't have to be this way. Call your lawmakers and let them know Texans want a competitive health care marketplace that's made for us. Get to work, Texas!