Rep. Schaefer: Texans' 'independent spirit' blamed for low healt - KLTV.com-Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville, Texas | ETX News

Rep. Schaefer: Texans' 'independent spirit' blamed for low healthcare sign-ups

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TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Nearly one in four Texans does not have health insurance. Still, the number enrolled in government healthcare is far less than projected. Some government leaders have pointed to Texas politicians and their criticism of the Affordable Care Act as one reason for the low turnout. Two East Texas leaders explain why they think so many uninsured Texans might be missing the March 31 deadline.

It’s a Texas attitude, not a political one, according to Republican State Representative Matt Schaefer.

“Texans don’t want the government to take over the healthcare system and that comes from our fierce Texan spirit of being independent and valuing freedom,” Schaefer said.

But, Smith County Democratic Party Chair, David Henderson, said that is exactly the attitude pushing Texans away from the healthcare plan.

“There is an aura of intimidation in Texas that a lot of people don’t overcome,” Henderson said.

And that aura started with politicians, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and trickled down.

Last week in Austin she pointed to a “constant barrage of misinformation” as the reason for low sign-up numbers.

“Even though people like me, in elected office, think that Obamacare is a disaster, at the end of the day, if the product is a good value for people, they’re going to figure that out,” Schaefer explained.

Just 295,000 Texas residents had enrolled by March 1. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services had projected 629,000 would enroll by the deadline.

“First of all, the rollout was a third world train wreck, there’s no denying that,” Henderson admitted, but he also points to a bigger issue as the reason behind misinformation.

“In Smith County we have a 50 percent adult literacy rate, so if half of your adult population can’t read, then something as complex as going through this is going to be extremely difficult,” he explained.

“People in Texas are smart, and if the healthcare product that is being offered is not going to work for them and their family, they’re not going to sign up for it,” Schaefer said.

Still, Texas ranked third in total sign-ups since the launch of Healthcare.gov on October 1. But, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured citizens in the nation.

“I mean if the state government had not opposed it at every turn and made it difficult—did not do any real education, did a lot of misinforming people—then we would have a much higher percentage of people,” Henderson said.

“At the end of the day they’re going to do what’s best for their family,” Schaefer said. “They’re going to do what’s best for their own financial interest and so, it really doesn’t matter what politicians are saying. If it was a good deal for people they would be signing up.”

He said those numbers say more about the product than the people, no matter the attitude.

Those who do not get enrolled in the government health insurance plan by Monday’s 11 p.m. CST deadline will have to wait until November for another opportunity to enroll.

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