The Unhealthiest Among Us

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There are nearly 3 million low-income women in Texas, and more than half of them lack health insurance.

That’s the finding of a recent study of women’s health insurance coverage by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the California-based nonprofit that specializes in health care policy studies. The report includes a state-by-state breakdown, and the numbers for Texas aren’t pretty.

It’s no secret that many Texans lack health insurance. For years, the state has had the nation’s highest percentage of uninsured citizens. But the Kaiser figures are especially alarming. Women in Texas are much more likely than men to be uninsured. Twenty-eight percent of women in Texas lack health insurance—far above the national average of 18 percent, and the highest in the country.

For poor women, the prospects are even worse. In Texas, 52 percent of low-income women have no health coverage. Again, that’s the highest rate in the country. No other state even tops 45 percent.

Uninsured women lead less healthy lives. They are much less likely to received preventive care such as mammograms and Pap tests. The Kaiser report also notes that rising medical costs have disproportionately affected women, who earn less money than men and are more likely to need more expensive health-care procedures, especially during pregnancy and childbirth.

National health care reform could drastically alter these numbers. Under the plans that Congress was still debating at press time, nearly all low-income women would be covered by Medicaid. Many other women would receive government subsidies to help them buy insurance. No state would benefit more than Texas. And nobody would benefit more than Texas women.

Dave Mann has been with the Observer since 2003. Before that, he worked as a reporter in Fort Worth and Washington, D.C. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. He thinks border collies are the world’s greatest dogs, and believes in the nourishing powers of pickup basketball.