Texas News
9:48 am
Wed October 30, 2013

Thanks To Obamacare, One North Texas Family Will Pay Way Less For Insurance

More than 20,000 people rely on the state-run Texas Health Insurance Pool. It insures folks with pre-existing health conditions who can’t find coverage elsewhere – but it’s costly.

In a few months, that risk pool will no longer exist because of Obamacare. And at least one North Texas family is celebrating.

The Flood family of Allen, which had to dive into the state insurance pool, had been spending $3,000 a month for coverage. Under Obamacare, the family’s policy will nosedive to under $1,000 a month.

Of course, there have been tons of concerns about Obamacare, and many politicians are trying to repeal it. And, in recent weeks, there have been scores of complaints about technical issues with the clunky Healthcare.gov website.

But Bob Flood didn't have problems navigating the website. He found his new policy on Healthcare.gov the second day the website opened. He searched on a Friday night -- he thinks he had success since other Texans were out and about, probably watching high school football games.

Flood is thankful for scoring a less expensive rate.

A decade ago, right after he retired, Flood learned he had cancer and a kidney would have to be removed. Just one month after he lost his kidney, he lost his health insurance.

“They called me up and said we’re canceling your policy,” Flood said.

Not just for him, but his entire family.

Flood, who lives in Collin County with his wife and two sons, figured he’d find another policy. But he was refused, over and over again. So he dipped into the state-run Texas Health Insurance Pool, which was created in the 1990s to cover people with pre-existing conditions, such as cancers and heart disease.

“The only place I could get health insurance was through the Texas health risk pool,” he said. “And that is 200 to 400 percent above what the average person pays.”

The KERA radio story.

‘A sizeable chunk of change’

The law requires that pool insurance rates be twice the rates on the commercial market – an average of $700 a month.

Flood’s family policy was more than $3,000 a month. His wife Amy says they tried to write the check once a year to avoid seeing the bill so often.

“That was a sizeable chunk of change,” Amy Flood said. “And, frankly, I would have rather given it to other needy people rather than just to an insurance consortium.”

But the Floods wanted to be responsible, so they agreed to grin and bear it. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, they don’t have to anymore.

Now the family policy costs less than $1,000 a month.

Under Obamacare, insurers can no longer deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. That means the expensive lifeline that was the insurance pool is no longer necessary, and tens of thousands of people who were unable to buy on the private market in Texas can finally choose from a variety of plans.

Savings will vary

Stacey Pogue, with the Center For Public Policy Priorities, says not everyone will find thousands of dollars in savings like the Floods.

“Some people will pay more and some people will pay less,” Pogue says. “And part of that’s going to depend on which plan they pick. But one thing that can be said across the board for the risk pool is that they will actually have a plan choice that they haven’t had in the past that includes different insurance companies and different networks.”

Of course, that depends on whether Healthcare.gov is working. It’s been plagued with technical glitches for weeks.

Pogue says that the idea of closing down the insurance pool was contingent on the marketplace being there to pick everybody up.

“If problems continue and make it difficult for people who are in the risk pool to enroll, we’ll need to have a conversation as a state about whether it makes sense for the risk pool to stay open a little longer,” she says.

Since people like the Floods have successfully made the transition, Pogue says it’s not time to call for a delay yet.

Oh, and don’t even talk about repealing Obamacare with Bob Flood.

“What do you want to repeal?” he said. “Do you want to repeal the pre-existing clause?

“That would mean cancer survivors like me couldn’t get insurance.”

KERA has been covering Obamacare through our Obamacare 101 series. Read previous stories on KERA's Breakthroughs blog.

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