One million uninsured kids

One point two million uninsured kids in Texas, actually. But who’s counting?

More than 1 million Texas children remain without health insurance, and those kids are not getting the care they need.

The startling condition of the state’s children came into vivid focus last week with the release of the annual Kids Count survey. The analysis of official state and federal data by the non-partisan Center for Public Policy Priorities found that 1.2 million Texas children have neither private nor public health insurance.

Almost 40 percent of Texas mothers received little or no prenatal care and one in seven babies were born premature, statistics show. The difference between being insured and uninsured is stark: 90 percent of insured kids are healthy, while only 58 percent of kids without insurance are considered healthy.

It comes as no surprise that the percentage of children covered by health care is directly related to the employment rate and the parent’s economic status.

With 25 percent of Texas children living in poverty, a rate that consistently runs 5 percent above the national average, Texas ranks 41st in the nation in number of uninsured kids, even though the unemployment rate is lower than the national average.

When uninsured kids get sick, their parents have no place to take them other than a public hospital’s emergency room, which by law cannot turn them away. And if those parents cannot pay the extremely expensive bill? The taxpayer picks up the tab.

“A large percentage of those kids will end up in the emergency room as their primary source of care, which is hugely inefficient and ridiculously expensive,” said Dr. Skip Brown, a medical professor and director of a pediatrics center at the University of Texas Medical Branch

“When you go to the emergency department, those guys are not there to be primary care providers.”

You can see the Kids Count data here. The story notes that many uninsured kids would be eligible for CHIP or Medicaid if they applied for it, but one reason why Texas has so many uninsured kids is precisely because the state does a lot to make it hard for them to apply, including things like requiring in person interviews and a six-month enrollment period instead of a 12-month period like those of us with employer-based insurance have. It’s a deliberate strategy, because insuring those kids would add to the state’s budget, whereas emergency room visits are paid for by counties. If the state’s Republican leadership applied even one tenth of the ferocity they have in fighting Obamacare to doing something about this massive problem at home, there would have eradicated it by now. But after ten years of Republican rule, they have done nothing to improve matters. Insuring kids and providing them with preventative health care is cheap. Paying for the problems of adults who didn’t get health care as kids, that’s expensive. Too bad Rick Perry and his cronies don’t see it that way.

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