Census: TX Uninsured Rate Now Even Worse, Still Highest in US
Austin - The U.S. Census Bureau has released new data showing Texas has both the highest number and highest percentage of uninsured residents in the United States. The data show that the state’s uninsured rate was worse in 2017 compared to 2016, rising from 4.5 million uninsured residents to 4.8 million and from 16.6 percent to 17.3 percent, a reversal of the steady improvement made under the Affordable Care Act.
The Texas numbers are part of a nationwide trend of health coverage improvements in states that accepted Medicaid expansion funding while states that have turned down the federal funding lag behind. Health coverage in Texas is expected to decline further if the Texas Attorney General is successful in his effort to end health insurance protections for Texans with pre-existing medical conditions and eliminate other health care benefits and protections provided under the Affordable Care Act.
"This should be a wake-up call," said Anne Dunkelberg, Associate Director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. "Our state policies are leaving moms, dads, child care workers, cooks, construction workers, and other Texans uninsured. The high uninsured rate leaves Texans sicker and more financially unstable. It's time for the Legislature, Governor, and Lt. Governor to come up with a plan for reducing the state's sky-high uninsured rate."
The federal government offers states Medicaid expansion funding to provide a health coverage option to low-wage workers who do not receive insurance from their jobs, but Texas is one of the 14 states that continue to turn down the funding (ID, NE, and UT are debating expansion). Under policies established by the state Legislature, the only low-wage adults who can enroll in Medicaid health insurance are seniors, pregnant women, Texans with severe disabilities or near-death illnesses, and parents who earn less than $320 a month.
"If Texans want our state to improve mental health, prevent maternal deaths, ensure babies are healthy, keep rural hospitals open, and address so many other challenges, then our state leaders need to reduce the uninsured rate," said Adriana Kohler, Senior Health Policy Associate at Texans Care for Children.
Texas voters have also made clear that they want the Legislature to work on this issue. In a recent poll, 89 percent said it was a “top priority” or “important” for the Legislature to work on reducing maternal deaths, and 87 percent said the same thing about the Legislature improving access to health insurance.
"With elections coming soon, we hope Texans will keep health care in mind when they walk into the voting booth," said Dr. Laura Guerra-Cardus, Deputy Director of Children's Defense Fund-Texas. "If you want to make sure Texans have access to health care, we encourage you to be a health care voter."
Cover Texas Now is a coalition of consumer and faith-based Texas organizations.