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Women More Likely to Be Uninsured

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The uninsured problem in Texas is worse than you thought, at least according to a new study.

There are nearly three million low-income women in Texas, and 52 percent of them lack health insurance.That’s the stunning 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 boasted the highest uninsured rate in the nation.  But the Kaiser figures are especially alarming.

Women in Texas are more likely than men to be uninsured. Twenty-eight percent of women in Texas lack health insurance. That’s the highest rate in the country and far above the national average of 18 percent. (About a quarter of all Texans are uninsured. If 28 percent of women are uninsured, it means the rate for men must be far lower.)For poor women, the prospects are even worse. The 52 percent of low-income Texas women without health coverage is the highest rate in the country. No other state even tops 45 percent.

The Kaiser has similar reports going back 10 years. While skimming the numbers, I noticed that while the percentage of Texas women without insurance has always been high, the numbers spiked by about 5 percent after 2003. That was the year the Legislature passed a bare-bones budget that cut hundreds of thousands of Texans off Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Hard to know if that’s the cause, but it’s an interested correlation.

The bottom line is this: Uninsured women lead less health lives. They postpone getting treatment and are much less likely to received preventive care such as mammograms and Pap tests. National health care reform might change all this. Under the plans that Congress is debating, nearly all low-income women would be covered by Medicaid. Many other women would receive government subsidies to buy insurance.

In Texas, that would help millions of poor 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.