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How Is Obamacare Affecting North Texans? It Depends On Who You Ask

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 website.

But how is the Affordable Care Act affecting North Texans? Here are four stories featuring everyday folks across Dallas-Fort Worth. Some are pleased with Obamacare, while one has no plans to sign up. Some are frustrated with the computer glitches, while one was able to sign up online right away.

1. An Allen family gets out of the costly state-run insurance pool

The Flood family of Allen, which had to dive into the state-run insurance pool due to pre-existing health conditions, had been spending $3,000 a month for coverage. Under Obamacare, the family’s policy will nosedive to under $1,000 a month. Bob Flood was able to sign up online right away.

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. He’s been in the Texas Health Insurance Pool ever since – but he’ll be able to drop his costly policy now that Obamacare is here.

Don’t even talk with Flood about repealing Obamacare.

“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.”

2. A Garland woman says ‘no’ to Obamacare

Jackie Sawicky of Garland is young, healthy and uninsured. But she thinks the health care overhaul is a failure. “I feel like I’m being penalized for being healthy and for taking care of myself,” Sawicky says.

She’s been uninsured for years. She’s so sick of the for-profit health care industry that she’d decided to pay the $95 fine rather than sign up for health care. She says that health care isn’t affordable when you add in deductibles and co-pays.

“You know what, I love Texas,” Sawicky said. “And when people say you don’t like it, get out. You know what? I’m a real conservative because I believe in saving the planet and saving each other.”

3. Website glitches keep uninsured dog groomer from getting insurance

Connie Puckett of Fort Worth is an uninsured dog groomer who’s had heart problems. She’s hoping to get insurance through Obamacare, but she experienced problems with the website earlier this month. She said she doesn’t expect any of the plans to be perfect.

It’s easy to spot Puckett out of the dozens of semis at the truck stop off Interstate 35 in Keller – she’s the one with dreads and a doggie T-shirt standing next to a truck outfitted for pet grooming.

“Now I’ve got a problem with my heart,” she said. “That’s the wake-up call for me.”

When her heart pounded irregularly in 2010, she tried to ignore it. Her doctor, who lets her pay cash, said she needed to see a specialist. She started saving up and calling around.

“I’m really the type of person that falls through the cracks,” she said. “The option is to pay my mortgage or get health care.”

4. Obamacare means easier healthcare access for Choctaw Nation family

Jeff Riley of North Richland Hills has wanted to get health insurance for his family – his wife and their three kids, including an infant. But he can’t afford the premiums. Since they are Choctaw Nation members, they have access to health care, but the nearest Indian Health Service hospital is in Oklahoma. They’ve been checking each day, looking for the right plan.

In North Texas, Native Americans have even lower rates of health insurance than the general population. And although they’re exempt from the Obamacare penalty if they choose not to sign up, Riley and his wife, Maxine, have been checking everyday, sometimes several times a day, since Oct. 1.

“We’re pretty patient,” Jeff Riley says, “because we want it to work out.”

Read more about these four stories here.

KERA’s Obamacare 101 is an ongoing project that looks at the impact that the Affordable Care Act is having on North Texans. The idea is to look at individual elements of the health care law through compelling stories about small businesses, hospitals, doctors, and the uninsured.

Making The Choice stories highlight profiles of individuals and families in North Texas affected by the Affordable Care Act.

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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.