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

Bob and Amy Flood, at their home in Allen. The Floods used to buy health insurance through the Texas Health Insurance Pool because of pre-existing conditions, but now are able to buy plans on the health insurance marketplace.

More than 20,000 people rely on the state run Texas Health Insurance Pool. The pool insures folks with pre-existing health conditions who can’t find coverage elsewhere. In a few months, that risk pool will no longer exist. And at least one North Texas family is celebrating.

Right after he retired a decade ago, Bob 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.

Credit Lauren Silverman / KERA NEWS
Bob and Amy Flood, at their home in Allen, TX. The Floods used to buy health insurance through the Texas Health Insurance Pool because of pre-existing conditions, but now are able to buy plans on the health insurance marketplace.

  “They called me up and said we’re canceling your policy,” Flood says. And not just for him, his entire family.

Flood, who lives in Allen with his wife and two sons, figured he’d find another policy. But he was refused, over and over again.

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

Life In The Texas Insurance Pool

The Texas Health Insurance Pool was created in the 90s to cover people with pre-existing conditions, like cancers and heart disease. Pool insurance rates are required, by law, to be twice the rates on the commercial market – an average of $700 a month.

Flood’s family policy was more than three thousand 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 says. “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 we have a policy which covers the three of us for less than a thousand dollars a month.”

See, Obamacare means 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.

Choices On The Marketplace

Stacey Pogue, of 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 working.

The idea of closing down the insurance pool, Pogue explains, was contingent to 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 there are people, like the Floods, who have successfully made the transition, Pogue says it’s not time to call for a delay yet, and don’t even talk about repealing Obamacare with Bob Flood.

“What do you want to repeal, do you want to repeal the pre-existing clause?” Flood asks. “That would mean cancer survivors like me couldn’t get insurance.”

So no matter how bumpy the roll-out, for folks like Bob Flood, there’s no turning back.

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.