Texas Health Statistics Fail to Tell Whole Story

Monday, 03 Oct 2011 03:06 PM

By Betsy McCaughey

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In the presidential debates and in media profiles, Gov. Rick Perry is under fire for allegedly failing to meet the healthcare needs of Texans.

Assailants claim that Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents, a staggering 24.6 percent. But an honest look at the U.S. Census data released last week points to the two factors that account for Texas’s high percentage of uninsured: illegal immigration and a strong Hispanic cultural bias against insurance.

The Census data show that 45 percent of foreign-born residents of the United States are uninsured, regardless of where they live. One reason is that people who are in the country illegally are not eligible for Medicaid, the public insurance program for the poor.

Texas is a border state inundated with illegal immigrants, conservatively estimated at 1.6 million by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Excluding the 1.6 million illegals, Texas's uninsured rate could be as low as 19.5 percent. That is still a troubling figure, but there is another factor at work.

A high proportion of Texas residents, both foreign and native born, are of Hispanic heritage. Health insurance is far less common in Latin American countries than in other countries.

Census data confirm that Hispanics of all economic circumstances are less apt to have insurance, public or private, than other cultural and ethnic groups.

The Census data show that 31 percent of Hispanics of all income levels are uninsured, compared with 21 percent of blacks of all income levels, even though Hispanics have a higher median income than black Americans.

Many Hispanics who can afford insurance choose not to buy it.

Behind the sensationalized attacks on Gov. Perry is a more complex picture.

Texas already spends more than one quarter of its state budget on Medicaid, including emergency services to illegal immigrants who are otherwise not eligible for coverage.

The most common emergency is childbirth. The amazing fact is that half of all births in the state are paid for by Medicaid.

These facts suggest that the “uninsured” in Texas is a border problem, not simply a state healthcare problem.

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