A new study from the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota shows that just over half of all uninsured people in America live in 116 counties. That's 116 out of 3,143 counties in the U.S., making up fewer than 4 percent of counties nationwide.
Two of the top five counties are in Texas – Harris County and Dallas County. In Harris County, 1.1 million people are uninsured, making up 29 percent of the population. In fact, one out of fifty uninsured people in the U.S. lives in Harris County. In Dallas County, over 660,000 people are uninsured, making up 31 percent of the population. Close to a dozen other Texas counties join them on the list of the top 116 counties: Bexar, Cameron, Collin, Denton, El Paso, Fort Bend, Hidalgo, Montgomery, Tarrant, Travis and Webb. These counties represent pretty much every major city in Texas.
Read more and see the map of the highest-uninsured counties after the jump. You can see from the Washington Post's interactive map just how small these pockets of uninsured are.
And while it's shocking that these small dots represent half of the uninsured in the country, for enrollment purposes these concentrations actually make it easier to know where to target resources. They're why the Obama Administration and groups like Get Covered America are pouring so many resources into Texas in advance of the open enrollment deadline of March 31 – if they can enroll significant numbers of people in these counties, they can make a serious dent in the uninsured population nationwide.
For instance, in Houston, Mayor Annise Parker is treating the uninsured rate like what it is – a disaster. “In Houston, the lack of health insurance is so severe and such a significant problem that our city is implementing an emergency management response system with community-based partners to coordinate enrollment initiatives,” said Mayor Parker in an op-ed. “We are treating the opportunity to enroll the uninsured the same way we would respond to a natural disaster: with attention and coordination.”
Indeed, Texas is in terrible shape in terms of health care coverage – the worst in the nation by a long shot. But because of that, it also stands the most to gain.