States such as Texas that chose not to expand Medicaid in recent years saw uninsured rates for young children grow almost three times as fast as states that did expand Medicaid, according to Every Texan. | Photo by badski007Pixabay

Texas ranks last among 50 States for kids with health insurance

AUSTIN – One million, or 13%, of Texas children went without health insurance in 2019, a significantly higher number than the national average of 6%.

The information comes from the 2021 Kids Count Data Book produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and shows the number is even higher for Hispanic children at 17%.

Amy Knop-Narbutis, research and data director of the nonprofit Every Texan, said it’s disheartening Texas policymakers are not enacting more common-sense legislation that would support children and families.

“We see that year after year,” Knop-Narbutis lamented. “But to me, it’s no less shocking to know that we’re performing worse than any other state in the nation in terms of children having health-insurance coverage.”

Knop-Narbutis noted a more recent point-in-time survey from last March showed even worse numbers, with 23% of all households without health insurance in Texas, including 38% of Hispanic households with children.

Overall, Texas ranked 46th out of 50 states for child well-being. Texas is one of only 12 states to opt out of Medicaid expansion.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Foundation, said an expansion is at the top of the list for improving health outcomes for children.

“One of the recommendations is to pass Medicaid expansion in those states that have not passed it already,” Boissiere stated. “And we’ve seen the states who have Medicaid expansion have a significant lower number of children and families who are uninsured.”

Knop-Narbutis pointed out the equity gap for Texas families is significant, and may be worse by the next report because Hispanic and Black families lost jobs at higher rates due to COVID-19. While the percentage of kids living in poverty dropped seven points in the new report, she added more purposeful action is needed.

“One in four children that are Black and Hispanic were in poverty,” Knop-Narbutis explained. “So although rates were improving, there’s still a big equity gap there in terms of who is thriving.”

Knop-Narbutis hopes legislation recently approved to reduce unnecessary eligibility checks for Texas children’s Medicaid will improve access.

The Kids Count index captures what children need most to thrive, using four domains including: economic well-being, education, health and family and community.

Author: Roz Brown – Public News Service (Tx)