NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

ABOUT 25 PERCENT OF TEXANS UNINSURED

September 14, 2009

Texas again leads the nation in the percentage of residents without health insurance, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released last week.  More than one of every four Texans -- 25.1 percent -- were uninsured, based on a two-year average for 2007-08.  That's up from 24.1 percent for 2005 and 2006, although analysts agreed the recession hit Texas late, holding down what could have been a bigger increase, says the Dallas Morning News.

John Goodman, President, CEO and the Kellye Wright Fellow of the National Center for Policy Analysis, said the percentage of the U.S. population lacking insurance has been stuck at about 15 percent over the past decade.  Enrollment in Medicaid and various states' Children's Health Insurance Programs has grown but has barely put a dent in the rate, he said.

"As we have expanded free, government-provided insurance in the public sector, the private sector has contracted because employers find that their employees would rather have wages if they can sign up for free coverage from the government," Goodman said.  "So the Medicaid program and the S-CHIP program are crowding out private insurance.  We keep adding to the taxpayer burden, but we're not reducing the percent of the population that's uninsured."

  • The Census Bureau, said the survey doesn't pinpoint whether people are in the country illegally, although it showed that 21 percent of the nation's 46.3 million uninsured people last year were noncitizens, both legal and illegal.
  • In Texas, 1.56 million of the state's 6 million uninsured people -- or 26 percent -- were noncitizens.
  • In New York and California, two other states with large immigrant populations, illegal aliens accounted for 26.4 percent and 37.3 percent, respectively, of people without health coverage.
  • California still has the highest number -- not percentage - of uninsured residents; it had 6.7 million uninsured people, about 700,000 more than Texas in a two-year average ending last year.
  • But Texas had more uninsured children under 18 -- more than 1.2 million last year, compared with 998,000 in California.
  • Once again, Texas had the nation's highest percentage of children under 18 without coverage -- 17.9 percent; nationwide, the percentage was 9.9 percent.

Goodman said none of this is surprising.

"We have a large low-income population, we have a large Hispanic population," he said.  "It tends to be true that at every level of income, the Hispanics have a higher rate of uninsurance."

Goodman said many lower-wage workers are uninsured for only brief periods.  They would be best helped with tax breaks on their individual health insurance premiums similar to those for workers who get coverage through their jobs, he said.

He warned that penalties for employers who don't cover their low-wage workers -- proposed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. -- would discourage hiring and needlessly prolong the recession.

Source: Robert T. Garrett, "25.1% of Texans uninsured, Census report finds," Dallas Morning News, September 11, 2009.

 

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