Texas again has highest uninsured rate in nation

Sep 17, 2013

Texas continued to have the highest rate of people without health insurance in 2012 at 24.6 percent, according to the Current Population Survey estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday.

“Texas has often had the highest uninsured rate throughout the country,” said David Johnson, chief of the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division. He added that additional data from the American Community Survey that the Census Bureau plans to release later this week would provide more specific information on health insurance rates in states and metropolitan areas. 

The Current Population Survey estimates revealed that the national uninsured rate declined in 2012, to 15.4 percent from 15.7 percent in 2011. The national real median income and official poverty rate were not statistically different in 2011 and 2012, according to the estimates. 

Overall, roughly 48 million Americans — including more than 6 million Texans — were uninsured in both 2011 and 2012. For those who had health insurance coverage, the percent with private coverage remained stagnant at close to 64 percent, while the percent enrolled in government health programs, such as Medicare or Medicaid, increased for the sixth consecutive year to 32.6 percent in 2012. 

“The increase in public coverage and no statistical change in private coverage may account for the increase in overall coverage,” said Johnson. 

Although more than 1 million children in Texas are uninsured, the majority of uninsured Texans are adults between age 18 and 65. In total, 19.7 million Texans had health coverage during some point in 2012; 14.5 million had private coverage, while 7.3 million were covered by government health insurance. 

On Monday, Gov. Rick Perry reiterated his opposition to solving the state’s uninsured problem by expanding Medicaid to low-income adults, and instead, directed the state agency that oversees the program to pursue permission to reform the program. 

Specifically, Perry requested that the agency seek a waiver that allows the state to make changes to the program without receiving federal approval, continue asset- and resource testing to determine eligibility, and initiate cost-sharing initiatives, such as co-payments, premiums and deductibles, among other reforms. 

The waiver “should give Texas the flexibility to transform our program into one that encourages personal responsibility, reduces dependence on the government, reins in program cost growth and efficiently improves coordination of care,” Perry wrote in a letter to the agency. 

If Texas had chosen to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act to include impoverished adults below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, the program could have extended coverage to an additional 2 million people, according to a report by Billy Hamilton, former deputy state comptroller and fiscal consultant.  

The federal government would have covered 100 percent of those recipients’ benefits for three years, and then reduced its share to 90 percent in later years. In the 2014-15 biennium, Texas would have received $7.7 billion in federal funds, while spending $297 million to cover poor adults, according to Hamilton’s estimates. Medicaid expansion would have cost the state six times less than the amount local governments and hospitals currently on uncompensated care for uninsured adults, according to Hamilton’s report.  

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at