Sharp Drop in Uninsured Texans Since Obamacare Rollout: Survey

But poorest residents are far more likely to lack coverage than the rich

WEDNESDAY, May 6, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The percentage of Texas residents without health insurance has dropped by nearly one-third since September 2013 when enrollment took place under the Affordable Care Act, a new report says.

However, no other state has a higher percentage or a higher number of uninsured people, according to a report by the Episcopal Health Foundation and Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy.

The researchers noted the sharp drop in the percentage of uninsured adults aged 18-64 coincided with the full rollout of the landmark health care legislation enacted in 2010 under President Barack Obama. The percentage fell from 25 percent to 17 percent through March 2015, they said.

"This is a dramatic drop that's unprecedented in Texas," Elena Marks, a health policy scholar at the Baker Institute, said in a university news release. "It's almost entirely attributable to newly insured individuals who purchased their own health insurance plans. The drop in the uninsured rate occurred across all income levels and age groups, including younger adults."

Still, the report found that the uninsured rate fell by only about 20 percent among those who $16,000 or less a year, compared to 45 percent among those who made more than that.

"The lowest-income Texans are almost four times more likely to be uninsured than those with higher incomes," said Vivian Ho, chair of health economics at the Baker Institute, in the news release. "This coverage gap has grown since 2013 primarily because the Affordable Care Act Marketplace allows households above the federal poverty level to buy health insurance using subsidies. Those same levels of discounts are not available to Texans with incomes below the federal poverty level."

She added: "Unless Texas participates in an expanded Medicaid program or develops some other mechanism for covering the lowest-income Texans, the number who remain uninsured is not likely to change."

Currently, she said, people at the lowest incomes have two options: Rely on health care that is highly subsidized by county and state tax dollars, or get by without needed health care.

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SOURCE: Rice University, news release, May 5, 2015
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