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Texas Has Highest Rate of Uninsured Children In United States

Protesters supporting the Affordable Care Act in Fort Worth earlier this year.EXPAND
Protesters supporting the Affordable Care Act in Fort Worth earlier this year.
Stephen Young

More adult Texans, and a higher percentage of them, are without health insurance than anywhere else in the United States, the Observer reported in September. A new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows that kids in the state are no better off.

More than 835,000 Texas children didn't have health insurance in 2017, an increase of more than 80,000 from 2016. Those 835,000 kids represent almost 11 percent of Texas' under-18 population and, staggeringly, 21 percent of all uninsured kids in the United States. No other state has even half as many uninsured children as Texas — both Florida and California are home to about 8 percent of the U.S.' uninsured children, according to the study. Nationwide, 5 percent of kids are uninsured.

“This is a disturbing report for anyone who wants Texas kids to get the eyeglasses they need to read the chalkboard at school, mental health treatment they need to be healthy, early treatment to stop cancer before it spreads and everything else that health insurance can mean for a child,” Adriana Kohler, senior health policy associate at Texans Care for Children, said Thursday. “Texas leaders need to make a commitment to reducing the state’s sky-high uninsured rate for kids and adults.”

Texans Care for Children is a health care advocacy group and a member of Cover Texas Now, a "coalition of consumer and faith-based organizations whose mission is to see the state of Texas implement a sustainable health care system and provide quality affordable health coverage to its citizens," that partnered with Georgetown University Center for Children and Families to release the study.

To reduce Texas' rate of uninsured children, Cover Texas Now is urging state legislators to pass a law that would allow kids in the state to stay enrolled in Medicaid for a full year at a time. Current regulations require parents and children to submit paperwork multiple times per year, increasing the odds that they will have their coverage dropped.

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The coalition also strongly backs the state accepting the federal expansion of Medicaid provided by the Affordable Care Act. According to the study, Texas' uninsured rate for kids increased at quadruple the rate of states that have already expanded Medicaid.

“When the Legislature decides to provide a health coverage option to uninsured construction workers, child care teachers and other low-wage Texas adults, we know that it will help many of those moms and dads provide health coverage for their children,” Kohler said.

Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, identified a potential Medicaid fix or expansion as an area where Democrats and moderate Republicans might work together in the new-look Texas House in 2019 when he talked to the Observer earlier this month. Any potential changes could have a tough time passing the Texas Senate, however, as Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has repeatedly railed against any expansion of Medicaid since coming into office in 2015.

"I think Obamacare is on its last legs," Patrick said during a September visit to Wichita Falls, according to local TV station KFDX. "Even the Democrats who voted for it have figured out it was a disaster. You know, one of the best things we did in the Senate, when I was a senator, Rick Perry did it as governor, we did not expand Medicaid. It's bankrupting states, and it's a tremendous stress on us, our state."

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