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Tell everyone about the Affordable Care Act!

EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON | 1/13/2014, 10:48 a.m.

All of us must continue to support the Affordable Care Act and the opportunity that it provides for nearly 6 million Texans to purchase affordable health care coverage for the first time. The six-month enrollment period ends in March and many of our friends, neighbors and relatives who are eligible have not signed up. We must spread the word in our churches, our neighborhood association meetings, our social events and even in our grocery stores that people can get coverage by utilizing the federally run exchange in Texas.

Twenty-six percent of all Texas residents lack health care coverage. This is the largest percentage in the country. The Affordable Care Act is a solution that allows our fellow Texans to get the coverage they need. Coverage of the uninsured is also in the best interest of those who already have coverage for themselves and their families. The cost of care rises for taxpayers when the uninsured and underinsured rely on emergency rooms for treatments that could have been avoided by preventive care with a primary-care physician.

Enrollment figures have risen in states in which local officials have worked with the federal government. For instance, Kentucky has witnessed increasing numbers of first-time enrollees.

Gov. Rick Perry, one of the harshest critics of the Affordable Care Act, refused to establish a state exchange, so the federal government established one for Texas residents. This refusal, coupled with the lost opportunity to expand Medicaid, cost Texas taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in additional funds that could be used to cover even more of the uninsured and underinsured.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Dallas on Dec. 20 to promote the Affordable Care Act. She urged Perry to accept the expanded Medicaid funding and to support the Affordable Care Act.

I am hopeful that Perry will follow his fellow Republican governors in Florida, Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico and Ohio who once opposed the Affordable Care Act, but are now seeking ways in which their states can participate in various programs that the legislation offers. They realize that the law benefits their constituents.

The Affordable Care Act makes sense. It gives relief to families and businesses in Texas. It allows families to shop for plans that fit their individual needs. It even provides subsidies for those who can demonstrate that they have a financial need. It protects consumers from inflated deductibles and unreasonable co-pays. It allows students to remain on their family’s plans until they reach the age of 26. It takes the management of health care out of the hands of insurance companies, and places it in the hands of health care providers.

While there have been some minor setbacks in the rollout of the website, the law is still effective and necessary in our country. Let’s all urge our friends, family and neighbors to visit http://www.healthcare.gov, which is now running effectively. For those without Internet access, you can contact health care navigators at various non-profits who have been contracted by the federal government to assist those searching assistance. We should build on and support President Obama’s quest for health care coverage for all.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson is the ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the highest-ranking Texan on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. She represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas, which includes Downtown Dallas, Fair Park, Kessler Park, Old East Dallas, Pleasant Grove, South Dallas and South Oak Cliff; all of Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Duncanville, Hutchins, Lancaster & Wilmer and parts of Ferris, Glenn Heights, South Grand Prairie, Oak Lawn, Ovilla, Uptown/Victory Park and West Dallas.