Texas saw a significant increase in the number of uninsured children in a two-year period, according to a new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.
Researchers at the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found 121,000 fewer children in Texas were covered between 2016 and 2018. The state's rate of uninsured went from 9.8% to 11.2% in that time.
“There is not even another state that is in the double digits,” said Joan Alker, who is the lead author of the study. “So, unfortunately Texas is way ahead of the country in this child health metric.”
That rate should be a "wake-up call" for the state, said Adriana Kohler, a senior health policy associate at Texans Care for Children.
She said policy leaders in the state could take steps to improve access to health care coverage for kids.
“One of the steps state leaders should take is removing extra rounds of red tape that knock eligible kids off of Medicaid health insurance,” Kohler said.
In the past few years, Texas has required eligible families to send in paperwork more frequently to prove they are still eligible for the program. As a result of this extra bureaucracy, a growing number of Texas children have lost their coverage.
There was legislation introduced to address that drop-off the last legislative session, but it didn’t pass.
Alker said the state could also greatly improve its coverage rate by expanding Medicaid coverage to more people through the Affordable Care Act.
“Unfortunately, Texas has not expanded Medicaid to parents and other adults, which is probably the single step the state could take that would most quickly turn this negative trend around,” she said.
Kohler said she hopes lawmakers make health coverage issues a priority in the next legislative session.
“The uninsured rate is something the state can tackle,” she said. “There are solutions and clear steps policymakers can take.”
And ultimately, Alker said it’s in the best interest of states to prioritize the health of children. She said children without health insurance face a “cascading series of negative effects” throughout their life.
“We know that when children don’t have health insurance they are likely to have bad health outcomes – both as children and adults,” Alker said. “There are also educational and economic consequences.”