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WOAI/KABB: Congressman proposes new bill to help Texans get medical coverage

SAN ANTONIO – You could soon be one of millions of Texans covered by health insurance.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett is proposing a new bill to help many struggling to see a doctor and get the care they need.

“I should have the right to be able to go take care of myself, without knowing that there’s going to be insane financial repercussions,” Vanessa Vega said.

Something Vanessa Vega, 25 and a grad student, says she cannot do that as she scrambles to afford health care.

“They told me that I didn’t make enough to get subsidized health insurance that I had to be making at least $12,000 a year in order to qualify,” Vega said.

Vanessa makes $750 a month as a graduate assistant. She tried applying for the Student Health Care Plan, but says she was quoted $370 a month – and when she looked for other options she did not qualify for low-income insurance.

“It’s kind of a system that’s set up to fail. It feels like of making the people that can’t afford things owe more and more so they can never afford it,” Vega said.

Running out of options, Vanessa contacted Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s office, asking what was being done to create a solution for an issue millions of people currently have after 12 states, including Texas, have refused to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act.

“There are too many San Antonio families, mostly the working poor, who are out there and they cannot get access to a physician, the necessary medications they need,” Doggett said.

Congressman Doggett filed the Cover Outstanding Vulnerable Expansion-Eligible Residents Now Act, dubbed COVER Now Act.

The proposed bill would give local governments like Bexar County the opportunity to apply to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for funds that were declined.

“Texas taxpayers are helping to finance Medicaid expansion in some 37 other states, So why shouldn’t Texas why shouldn’t people in the Bexar County area, be able to get the benefits of their tax dollars, and at the same time help their neighbors get the health care to maintain good health,” Doggett said.

We asked Doggett about those who believe their tax dollars should go to things they actually want and how he would approach them.

“I share priorities, been working diligently to assure that the rescue money gets to San Antonio school districts, as, as not blocked by the state,” Doggett explained. “And certainly we have some mobility challenges. Every time I’m up and down I-35 stops, I realize how much we need to deal with our mobility challenges, but folks that don’t have health insurance, often work for small employers, who’ve been unable to provide it. Some of them are independent contractors they’re their own small business, others are in part time jobs or jobs through the service industry where they work for several employers.

“So it’s not that these people aren’t trying, but they simply haven’t been able to get access to health coverage, folks I’ve talked with who came to our sessions couldn’t understand why it is that those who are a little more prosperous than they are, get federal health through tax subsidies, and they could get nothing. And that’s because the state has not expanded Medicaid.”

He says this is why residents should rely on local leaders.

“By relying on local leaders like judge Wolff and Mayor Ron Nierenberg, who did such important work during the pandemic, when we had a failure at the state and federal level,” Doggett said. “I think we can expand coverage, lead the ideology at the state level, but allow us to do in Bexar County in the greater San Antonio area, what needs to be done. What we know is that if we could just get these local programs set up in San Antonio, Dallas in Houston, we would cover over half of the Medicaid eligible population.

Should this bill succeed, when can you expect coverage? Doggett said Washington can take a while, but he hopes to have it by September.

“And if that happens and the President can sign it into law in the fall, then we would be able to have Bexar County, perhaps some of the surrounding counties come together decide the best way to administer it locally, apply to the federal government, and begin to get these resources,” Doggett revealed. “Hopefully within a little more than a year.

He says he believes his plan is less expensive than other states, but they’re still trying to get a final number.

If passed COVER Now would help Texans, like Vanessa, see a doctor and get necessary treatments as soon as next year.

“It makes me just not worry that if there’s any emergency situation that I can, that I’ll be able to take care of it,” Vega said.

Mayor Nirenberg sent us a statement saying Medicaid expansion is an issue and he’s appreciative of the congressman’s efforts to get San Antonio residents insured.

We also reached out to half a dozen Republicans, including Congressmen Chip Roy and Tony Gonzales, who weren’t available or said we’d hear from them Tuesday.

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