A Million Texas Children Remain Without Insurance

AUSTIN (AP) – More than a 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.

Ask anyone who knows anything about health care, conservative or liberal, and they will tell you this is the most inefficient way to care for children. Neither is it the best care.

“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.”

Brown said the children also miss out on the most important factor in getting good care: a doctor who knows the patient and their medical history. Children with asthma and diabetes — chronic diseases best treated by a family doctor on a routine basis — comprise many, if not most, of the kids who show up in the emergency room.

“There are kids missing out on care,” he added.

About half of the uninsured children would qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, if they applied, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Many of the parents don’t know they are eligible, have not bothered to apply or the state has not finished processing their applications.

From 2007-2010, Texas Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, for kids not quite poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, grew by 10 percent and did a good job of treating kids, according to an official review released last week. Texas’ programs consistently scored above the national average in treating asthma, diabetes and mental health issues. Customer satisfaction was consistently high, according to the independent assessment by the University of Florida.

Unfortunately, though, the Legislature cut state spending on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program by $2.03 billion for 2012-2013, according to a budget analysis by the Center for Public Policy Priorities. More than $800 million of those cuts will be to reimbursement rates for doctors who agree to treat poor or disabled children.

The reduction in payments to doctors treating Medicaid patients will make it harder for patients to find care. Doctors can only afford to have about 25 percent of their patients on Medicaid to keep their business viable. Lower reimbursements means that fewer doctors will accept Medicaid patients, and more people will end up in the emergency room.

Brown, who has practiced medicine for more than 30 years, said he remembers the era before Medicaid and CHIP were widely available and the entirely preventable emergency cases that would turn up in emergency rooms.

“I have seen the change in my practice-lifetime that giving good basic care will do,” Brown said. “I am really concerned we’re going to see that back-slide a good bit.”

Many lawmakers have promised to restore funding for programs that help kids stay healthy when they meet again in 2013, but officials at the Department of Health and Human Services warn of more budget deficits ahead. When the Kids County survey comes out next year, it’ll offer Texans another check on the health of Texas kids.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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  • JEC

    As stated in the article…..many of these children are actually eligible for insurance coverage through Medicaid and/or CHIPS, but their parents don’t bother. This is not a lack of insurance, this is a lack of parental education. You can have the insurance programs in the world, but if people are not interested enough to take advantage, that is not the state’s fault.

  • Robert

    How about publishing the number of doctors that will not accept patients WITH Medicare. What good is insurance when the hospital and doctors will not treat you? I know of people this has happened and it is uncommon.

    • JEC

      Well, it is going to become more common as we over forward into the realm of Obamacare. If the doctors don’t get paid enough to meet their expenses, you are right….they won’t see you.

      • Jerry Simons

        Yet you can visit a Minor Emergency Medical center without insurance and it will cost half of what a hospital emergency room or Carenow will charge with no insurance. The kicker? That doubled price is precisely what will be charged to your insurance company if you are fortunate enough to have insurance. The entire system needs to be overhauled, and so called Obamacare is only the first step in that direction. It aint perfect by any means, but partisan politics in a dysfunctional Congress will insure AFFORDABLE healthcare remains out of reach for anyone earning less than 40,000 a year without company provided health care assistance, with or without Obama in the White House.

  • olcoot

    thats actually their parents fault, not mine ….. the parents have NO skill, NO talent, NO imagination, and/or are drug addicts anyway …. they shouldnt be allowed to breed ….

  • reasoner72@yahoo.com

    How many are here illegaly and should not be getting free care in this country anyway?

  • Ted Kiser

    Bull. Anyone who goes to an Emergency room gets treatment. Look into the mouth of the multitude of so called poor people and see the braces in their mouths. I worked had and still can’t afford dental care for me, but the lazy, cheating so call poor get free dental care. They don’t want medical insurance because they don’t want to pay for it.

    • Chris K

      Ted you are really out of touch. I work with poor children through a youth athletics program and I can assure that given the choice none would be poor.

      • Ted

        Chris, read my post, slowly, if you need to. Tell me what I said is not true. You are just repeating what you’ve heard other Liberals say. I see it first hand every day.And… the answer to most people poverty is WORK. You just don’t get it, do you?
        Oh, and before you reply that many are not able to work, I speaking of people of sound mind and body. But, then again, that wasn’t even the topic I was posting. R E A D it again.

  • JetPro

    A Million Texas Children are anchor babies….

  • joseph hedary

    How about talking about adults, they don’t count I guess because they have no low cost insurance available, no one wants to talk about that.

  • sdsemail

    Those women and children would have medical care if they went to free clinics like the one at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Oh, I forgot, you have to sit all day and wait for your name to be called. Can’t go smoke, or pop pills, or entertain a gentleman “friend” while you are there. That’s the main reasons women do not go to or take their kids to the free clinics. Watched this happen way too much while I worked in such places.

    • Chris K

      All hospitals and clinics should be “free” clinics. There is no reason that anyone in this country should ever be denied medical attention.

  • FedUpTxn

    What kind of insanity has our country come under that we NEED a middle man (insurance) in order to take care of our own bodies? We pay thousands for insurance and get very little in exchange with the exception of higher health care costs. Remove insurance for everyone and force doctors to pay reasonable rates. END of problem!

    • Chris K

      Our President wanted “Single Payer” republicans blocked it.

  • Chris K

    As long as we remain a “red” state we will continue to lead the nation in child hunger, uninsured children and low education standards. As much as I, a native Texan, hate to admit it we need the Federal government to come in and fix our state. The last two governors have almost totally destroyed our great state.

  • Stuart Adams

    Emergency room visit $600 or so Clinic visit less than $60, I just don’t see whats so HARD to FIGURE, except that FRED FLINTSTONE and BARNY RUBBLE are running this State!!!

  • Ted

    I can’t believe there are so many of you who are falling for this Socialist State thing. That is exactly what you are doing when you want/expect the tax payer to pay for your healthcare.

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