Deadline looming to enroll for healthcare

AUSTIN, Texas (AP / KXAN) — The clock is ticking for Texans to sign up for health coverage. On this week’s edition of our political program “State of Texas: In-Depth,” our political team reports on health issues facing Texans.

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the nation. As of March 1, about 295,000 people in Texas had signed up for coverage — less than half of the target of 629,000 enrollees originally set by the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Gov. Rick Perry and Republican leaders have consistently slammed the health overhaul while simultaneously refusing Medicaid expansion in a state where nearly 1 out of every 4 residents is uninsured.

Millions of uninsured nationwide have until Monday to pick a plan or face penalties. More than 6 million Americans have signed up so far.

KXAN’s Shannon Wolfson sat down with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday.

“I don’t think it’s been a help when you have government officials trying to block navigators from getting information to the people. And you have everything from legal challenges to a constant barrage of misinformation,” Sebelius said during her trip to Austin. “That isn’t terribly helpful to folks trying to figure out what the law means and whether or not the law applies to them, or whether it’s even in place in Texas.”

Texas spends $25-billion on Medicaid each year. KXAN spoke to state lawmakers about fraud and abuse associated with the benefit.  Senator Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, is a pharmacist. Dr. John Zerwas, a Republican member of the House, practices medicine in Houston. See their interviews in part two of this week’s edition.

At our political roundtable, Texas Tribune healthcare reporter Becca Aaronson and Lee Spangler, VP of Medical Economics at the Texas Medical Association, discussed health issues facing Texas.

You can watch “State of Texas: In-Depth” every Sunday morning at 8:30, right before NBC’s Meet the Press.

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