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Affordable Care Act Rides In Texas

David Martin Davies
TPR News

Texas Matters: With the visit of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to Texas this week, key figures for and against the new health care bill are sounding off across the state. Even as the law continues to roll out, small business owners are still unsure about how they will handle employee health care. Also on this episode: A look at self-policing in the Houston Police Department.

ACA greeted by opposition and support

When U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius came to San Antonio and Austin this week to publicize the Oct. 1 launch of the sign-up for the online health insurance exchanges, Gov. Rick Perry issued some comments.

"As Sec. Sebelius brings her Obamacare promotion tour to Texas, to try to convince our citizens that Obamacare really isn’t as bad as we already know it is, I hope she will take the time to hear from Texans who will bear the brunt of this destructive legislation.

While in San Antonio, Sebelius said her agency will be working directly with the city and other Texas cities to get the word out about the program and encourage people to go online to sign up.

San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro said there are multiple reasons why the city should work with the White House on Obamacare, including improving the health of the city and helping the city recapture funds being spent on emergency care like EMS transports.

"It is important for the city organization because we have, I believe, tens of millions of dollars of unpaid EMS fees because people take EMS and they don't have insurance and then they end up not paying the bill. So everyone, all the local taxpayers, are stuck with that. So as a city organization, we have both a financial interest and also just an interest in the health and well being of the community to be an active participant in getting information out there."

Secretary Sebelius on the opposition she is receiving in Texas:

"While there hasn't been a lot of cooperation from state officials, there is a lot of enthusiasm and active help and support from a whole series of other officials and community leaders. So we have mayors throughout the State of Texas who are really engaged and involved and want to use their networks to get the word out to folks. We have members of the congressional delegation who voted for the bill in the first place who are strongly supporting enrollment and education activities. Certainly a lot of county officials."

Still fear in the business community

Credit Ryan Poppe / TPR
A group of Texas legislators and businesspeople led by Houston Dr. Steven F. Hotze and the Braidwood Management Group filed a lawsuit against Sec. Sebelius and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in early may said the ACA will hurt the Texas economy by reducing productivity.

Despite the fact that the Affordable Care Act is starting to take effect and that there are few options left for opponents to prevent it, it is still disliked by leaders in the business community.

Will Newton, executive director of the Texas branch of the National Federation of Independent Business:

"Business owners right now are scared to death of what the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will mean to their business and their ability to stay in business. What this legislation -- now law -- has done is dramatically driven up the cost to small business owners and business owners who had been providing health insurance benefits to their employees are faced with ever-escalating costs to their business and are likely to drop care or eliminate employees in order to afford it."

Also on this episode of Texas Matters:

Crimes Unpunished: Self-policing at the Houston Police Department

The Houston Police Department is the largest police force in Texas and one of the biggest in the nation. There are about 1,200 complaints filed against the officers each year and what is surprising is that about 900 of them are internal, made by other officers or their superiors.

In the July issue of the Texas Observer, reporter Emily DePrang uncovers her findings after spending a year looking into the self-policing practices of the Houston Police Department.

"Either officers are complaining on one another a lot, which seems unlikely, or there are a lot of legitimate complains made by people who know what they are talking about that are going unsustained. Sustained is when they decide, 'Yes, it happened and it was wrong and maybe we will punish you for it.' But even when a complaint is sustained...half of the time the punishment is a written reprimand and a written reprimand has almost no effect whatsoever on an officer's record. He can get a whole lot of written reprimands without that adding up to anything for him."

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi