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In Travis County, Most Uninsured Residents Come From Working Families

Gabriel C. Pérez

An estimated 17 percent of Travis County residents under the age of 65 were uninsured in 2018, a new report finds. That's up from 15 percent last year. Seventy-one percent of those uninsured were from working families.

“Many are Texans who work full time in stores, wait tables, build homes or care for Texas toddlers," said Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation, which sponsored the report written by Urban Institute analysts. "But they still don’t have access to affordable health insurance and that affects all Texans."

The statewide analysis found that Texas remains the most uninsured state in the country: An estimated 19 percent of the population lacks health insurance, compared to an average of 11 percent nationwide. It also found that two-thirds of Texans without health insurance were from working families.

"There's often this misconception that people who are uninsured are somehow lazy or not doing what they should be doing to care for themselves and their families," Marks said. "What this data show is that the vast majority of these people are in working families ... but there's not an insurance program that is affordable and available to them."

More than half of uninsured people in Travis County had an income below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, and almost 60 percent were Hispanic. Less than a third were non-Hispanic white.

Credit Episcopal Health Foundation

“Without policy changes, the number and share of uninsured Texans will likely increase with time,” said Linda Blumberg, a fellow at the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center and co-author of the report.

More than a third of the 101,000 uninsured people in Travis County are eligible for Medicaid/CHIP or tax credits in the marketplace. Marks said enrollment in those programs has been declining in Texas likely due to fears families have about immigration issues.

Of the 68 percent of people not eligible for those programs, 39,000 would be eligible for Medicaid if Texas expanded the program as permitted by the Affordable Care Act.

"The biggest group for whom there is a readily available solution are the people who are in the coverage gap because [Texas] didn't expand Medicaid," Marks said.

She said the report confirms that the state’s uninsured rate is still "unacceptably high."

"Texans want lawmakers to do something different and now’s the time to do it."

DaLyah Jones is a former assistant producer for All Things Considered and evening host. She is also co-host of the Two & Fro podcast.
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