• October 31, 2014

Two Texas counties among highest rates of uninsured

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Posted: Friday, August 30, 2013 4:30 am

AUSTIN — Two South Texas counties have among the highest rates of people without health insurance in the nation, with working Hispanic men in South Texas the most likely to not have coverage, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Hidalgo County has the highest rate among urban counties at 38.9 percent, and Maverick County has the highest rate among medium-sized counties at 35.1 percent.

Texas continues to have the highest uninsured rate in the country, with about one in four people having no coverage of any kind. Massachusetts, which requires residents to have coverage, has the lowest uninsured rate in the nation at 4.9 percent.

The Census Bureau’s Small Area Health Insurance Estimates are a statistical analysis of the American Community Survey data and other census information combined with federal income tax, Medicaid, food stamps and County Business Patterns records. The dataset is for 2011, the latest year available.

There are vast differences in uninsured rates based on location, ethnicity, income, gender and age.

Hispanic males were the least likely to have health insurance nationally, but in Texas the rate was 67.4 percent of Hispanic men between the ages of 18 and 64 who earn less than $23,000 a year. That is an estimated 950,000 people.

Under the Affordable Care Act, 320,000 of those men will be required to purchase subsidized health insurance, but because Gov. Rick Perry rejected a federal plan to expand Medicaid to include the working poor, more than 630,000 men will not be eligible for the health care program for the poor or subsidized insurance because they make too little.

Texas Medicaid is primarily for children, the disabled and the elderly poor, with very few childless adults eligible.

The uninsured rate for white men with the same income was only 42 percent, or 303,000 people.

The rate for blacks was 47 percent, or 155,000 men. Among Texas’s most populous counties, Dallas County had the highest rate at 30.5 percent, but Harris County had the most people at more than 1 million.

The five counties with more than 25,000 residents that had the highest uninsured rates were all in South Texas ranging from 34.6 percent in Starr County to 38.9 percent in Hidalgo County.

For Eddie Olivarez, chief administrative officer of Hidalgo County’s Health and Human Services department, the numbers were all too familiar.

“We always wind up being one, two or three,” he said.

The rate is the result of the county’s transition from an agriculture-based economy to a service-oriented one, and its location on the Texas-Mexico border, he said. Hidalgo has a fast-growing population, but not the kinds of jobs that offer private health insurance.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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