Texas bill would label citizens who receive Obamacare subsidies

Last Friday, the Texas House of Representatives passed HB 1514, a bill that would label the health insurance cards of people whose plans are subsidized through the Affordable Care Act with an “S” for “Subsidy.” The bill heads to Texas’s State Senate this week.

Supporters of the bill, channelling their inner Orwell, have unironically asserted that the bill is necessary so as to “standardize” Texans’ insurance cards by singling out those whose insurance is subsidized. Others have testified that the label would remind doctors to “remind the patient about the importance of continuing his or her portion” of payments to their health insurance plan.

The coalition of physicians in support of the bill would have us believe that citizens who receive subsidies for their insurance are financially irresponsible freeloaders who don’t pay their bills, but that simply isn’t the case. Over 91 percent of Americans who have signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act have remained up to date on their premium payments.

Critics of the bill have pointed out that one doctor’s reminder could be another’s rejection, arguing that the label could create a “scarlet letter” effect in which doctors turn away patients whose insurance cards indicate that they are receiving a subsidy. While doctors are prohibited from turning patients away based on the type of insurance they have, public health advocates in Texas have interpreted doctors’ arguments in favor of the bill as an indication that that’s exactly what they intend to do.

As Jose E. Camacho, executive director of the Texas Association of Community Health Centers said, quoted by the Texas Tribune, “Other than creating a group that you’re going to discriminate against, I don’t see any purpose for indicating that people are getting a subsidy.”

This bill is the latest in a long line of attempts in Texas to make it harder for citizens in the state to afford their health coverage. The state has refused to expand Medicaid, and is a cosignatory of the lawsuit brought forward in King v. Burwell the Supreme Court case deciding whether a typo in the Affordable Care Act invalidates health insurance plans purchased through federal exchanges. If the plaintiffs in King are successful, HB 1514 will be unnecessary because such a ruling would invalidate Affordable Care Act subsidies for all 1.75 million Texans currently receiving them.

Health insurance via Shutterstock

Health insurance, via Shutterstock

Texas’s efforts to deny its own citizens health coverage is even less acceptable given how little financial sense they make from the point of view of, well, Texas’s state government. 30 percent of Texans are obese, 19 percent smoke and 24 percent are projected to have diabetes by 2040. Texans already spend more on health care than citizens in all but two states, California and New York, and that’s only going to go up as those obesity, smoking and diabetes rates take their toll.

And just because those citizens aren’t insured doesn’t mean they won’t be consuming health care. When citizens need healthcare and can’t pay for it, their costs are passed on to everyone else in the state. That means higher premiums for every Texan.

In other words, if there were ever a state that stood to gain by getting its citizens on private health insurance plans, that state would be Texas. In spite of this, Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the country, and is doing everything it can to keep it that way.

Stigmatizing consumers who signed up for their coverage via the Affordable Care Act doesn’t help anyone, with the possible exception of Republican state legislators who need to sponsor three anti-Obamacare bills each term in order to avoid an Americans for Prosperity-sponsored primary challenge.

Fingers crossed that the bill dies in the Senate.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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20 Responses to “Texas bill would label citizens who receive Obamacare subsidies”

  1. jimbeaux says:

    and the current “Abbott and Lieutenant Dan” show.

  2. jimbeaux says:

    excellent logic – unfortunately we’re talking about Texas.

  3. terrilynnmerritts says:

    Insurance companies issue their own cards to customers with all the information a doctor or hospital needs to verify coverage and to bill the company. Since Texas does not run those companies and have nothing to do with insurance, why would there be a need to standardize insurance cards? Also, policies on the exchanges are the same as the ones sold to businesses and individuals and come from private insurance companies, why would it matter if the patient got the Blue Cross policy from work, individual purchase or on the exchange? And why would how it is paid for matter? Will those who get employer-sponsored insurance where the employer pays part of the premiums also have a scarlet S on theirs since it is partially subsidized by an employer? There is no reason for Texas to involve itself in the matter of insurance cards.

  4. caphillprof says:

    Apparently there are no Christians in Texas.

  5. SabrinaDRichardson says:

    ✔✌✔Creat profit with Google at [email protected]:::



  6. DoverBill says:

    Religious zealots avoid the truth and reality until they’re buried in it, in which case they dig in even deeper.

    And it’s obliviously fueled by nothing than overt, pure fuckin’ hate.

    Just what does Christianity stand for today?

  7. 2karmanot says:

    Would, but my middle finger is tired today. :-)

  8. 2karmanot says:

    There is hope however. Mr. God also hates Republican Christer trailer parks during tornado season.

  9. 2karmanot says:

    And Dubya, le petite

  10. 2patricius2 says:

    “Revolting.” A perfect word.

  11. TheAngryFag says:

    No one ever accused Texas of intelligence, sanity, morality, or ethics. I mean, they repeatedly re-elected Rick Perry.

  12. Indigo says:

    I don’t know what to say in the face of administrative malice like that. One word will have to suffice: Texas.

  13. devlzadvocate says:

    I was unfortunate enough to spend some time in Texas and chatted with locals in Central Texas. OMG! I was floored by the lack of compassion, arrogance and selfishness exhibited by most of the people. One comment that still sticks with me from an overwhelming anti-union conversation was, “You would be surprised how LITTLE money people will work for.” I couldn’t wait to get home. I simply could never live there. As much as I make fun of Texans, they take the “pioneer spirit” to the extreme, thinking that any help that isn’t a homecooked meal from a neighbor’s kitchen is an invasion of privacy. Takeaway on this bill – not surprised.

  14. mf_roe says:

    Maybe someone with artistic skills could craft a nice graphic.

  15. mf_roe says:

    If Heaven is guarded by Golden Gates and is filled with Mansions and streets paved with Gold how could the Poor be deserving or welcome? God hates the poor and punishes them in life to reward them with riches in death?

  16. Houndentenor says:

    For the most part, blatant hypocrisy with a huge side dish of cognitive dissonance. Every Teavangelical I know (and that’s unfortunately for me a LOT) is either on some sort of government program as a primary source of income (Social Security, Disability, etc.), works for the government (city, county, state or federal) or works for a company whose primary or even only contract(s) are with some government entity (city, county, state or federal). And yet they go on and on about big government. Here’s the cognitive dissonance…THEIR benefits for say disability (said disability is being fat and such a racist loudmouth that they can’t find/keep a job) are DESERVED while the others (hint: the non-white people) are FREELOADERS! These are the people who vote for people like Cruz and Abbott. If they got the government they say they want they’d all starve. Maybe that’s what needs to happen. they need to get the government they keep voting for. Oh wait, that’s happening in Kansas and Wisconsin and they re-elect them anyway because anything bad that happens is Obama’s fault.

    Anyway, you asked. That’s pretty much how it works. Revolting, no?

  17. Marcus says:

    It is part of the Gospel of Prosperity. If you are Godly, then riches will flow to you. If you aren’t, then you are a sinner/wastrel/freeloader, and deserve to be looked down upon/discriminated against. Forget whatever that Jesus guy actually said about the poor, sick, etc – this is the “New Religion” of Mammon.

  18. mf_roe says:

    Genetic inability to admit error.

  19. 2patricius2 says:

    What in the hell is wrong with Texas voters who continue to put these people into office?

  20. mf_roe says:

    Lone Star has become a rating.

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