Percentage of uninsured women, Hispanics in Texas falls

Houston ChronicleJune 24, 2015Articles

As the overall number of Texans without health insurance continues to fall, a new report shows that the state’s women and Hispanics have been the biggest beneficiaries.

Between September 2013 and March 2015, the percentage of Hispanics without health insurance fell from 39.1 percent to 24.3 percent, meaning that more Hispanics have health insurance now. It is the largest improvement of any ethnic group, a study by the Episcopal Health Foundation and Rice University‘s Baker Institute for Public Policy found.

The percentage of uninsured women fell from 26.4 percent to 18 percent. Currently, about 16 percent of the state’s men are uninsured.

Texas continues to lead the nation with 17 percent of its residents living without health insurance. That has dropped from 24.6 percent in the past year and a half, a time frame that coincides with implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s outreach to get people connected with insurance and ultimately health care.

But the improvements in access to health insurance was not shared equally among all Texans.

Texas’ Hispanic population “had the lowest rates of coverage before the ACA, which means they had the most to gain,” says Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation and author of the report.

Still, concern lingers. “It’s disturbing that a quarter of this (Hispanic) population lacks insurance in Texas,” said Vivian Ho, co-author and chair in health economics at the Baker Institute.

She adds that while efforts were made to reach Texas Hispanics to boost enrollment in insurance coverage, there needs to be more “navigators” to help people through the process – especially since many have never had health insurance.

In Texas, African-Americans had the smallest decline in uninsured rates, falling just 4.5 percent, the report said.

“It’s interesting that the percentage drop in uninsured is larger for women than men,” Ho said. “Women tend to consume more health care than men, but women have less income. It is likely that there was more pent-up demand for insurance protection and health care services for women versus men.”

She added that she worries that without some kind of coverage expansion for low-income women, such as Medicaid, which state leaders have rebuffed, “they are likely to remain uninsured.”

Health care advocates say much work needs to be done. Another study, this one by Blue Cross and Blue Shield‘s Be Covered Texas, found that while 84 percent of residents had a personal-care physician, nearly a quarter of them had not gone to the doctor in the past year.

The same study also found that those living in South and West Texas are less likely to have a personal-care physician or family doctor than in other parts of the state.

Some tips to health care consumers offered by Blue Cross include:

  • Use the emergency room for emergencies only.
  • Use generic drugs when possible.
  • Stay within your network of providers if possible, to reduce out-of-pocket costs.
  • When needing routine medical care, go to a physician or medical clinic rather than a hospital emergency room.
  • Do your best to eat right, exercise and get regular health screenings to head off medical issues later.

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