A member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet will be in Austin this week to meet with the mayor and representatives of health care-related groups to talk about the Affordable Care Act.
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is scheduled to speak with Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, executives from health plans and top members of health care associations on Thursday, the department confirmed. The meeting will not be open to the public.
Leffingwell said the gathering should be a continuation of a discussion that began in January between the department and several mayors — mostly from Texas — who met to talk about the forthcoming health insurance exchange in Texas.
The exchange — called for by the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare” — will be a marketplace for people to shop for health insurance plans. It is supposed to be accessible online, by mail or in person, using a qualified helper.
The mayor and Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, who also was invited to the meeting with the secretary, will do whatever they can to help with the rollout of the exchange, Leffingwell said.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to do what we can to make this program a success for our people,” Leffingwell said. “It’s good for our local community.”
Since leaders in Texas’ state government declined to take the lead in running a health insurance exchange, the federal government will administer the state’s health insurance marketplace.
Sebelius will be trying to get out the message that the marketplace will be up and running on Oct. 1.
The secretary is expected to promote the federal website Healthcare.gov, where people will be able to apply for coverage, compare plans and enroll. Coverage will begin Jan. 1.
John Hawkins, senior vice president for governmental relations at the Texas Hospital Association, plans to attend the meeting, and he said he’s eager to get more clarity about the implementation of the exchange and how it will affect hospitals.
Hawkins noted that hospitals typically have intake staffs to determine what coverage or assistance is available for patients, so any new information for them will help ensure the hospitals are properly reimbursed.