It has been five years since the Affordable Care Act was made the law of the land, and data released by Gallup last week has indicated that across the country, the rates of people lacking health insurance have plummeted. In fact, the number of uninsured residents is below 20% in every state–every state, that is, except Texas.
According to last week’s report, Texas still has the highest percentage of uninsured residents, and is the only state in the country with more than 20% of its population uninsured.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been any improvement at all. In 2013, Texas’ uninsured rate was a staggering 27%, and it has dropped to 21%. However, compared to the reductions that other states have seen in their uninsured rates, it’s nothing to write home about either. As the LA Times noted:
- “By contrast, in Arkansas and Kentucky, both of which started above 20% uninsured, just 9% of adult residents lack insurance.
California has gone from just under 22% without insurance to just under 12%, experiencing the largest number of newly insured people in the country.”
In some states, including most of New England, Iowa, Minnesota, and Hawaii, the uninsured rate has dropped to below 5%.
So why exactly is it that Texas is still struggling with massive uninsured rates while other states see theirs fall? The answer probably won’t surprise you–it’s our elected officials’ refusal to cooperate with the Affordable Care Act.
The Gallup data showed that the more states embraced different parts of the law, the more they saw their uninsured rates drop. It’s no wonder, then, that Texas, where Republican officials have fought tooth and nail to stop every provision of the ACA, is the only state where more than a fifth of residents are uninsured.
Take Medicaid expansion, for example. Greg Abbott has continued Rick Perry’s policy of refusing to do it, even though reports suggest that between one and two million Texans would gain coverage if Medicaid were expanded. Abbott has doubled down on his refusal to cooperate with the law, writing that “Medicaid expansion is wrong for Texas,” and asking elected officials to “to show some political spine and just say no to Obamacare.” Abbott has claimed that expanding an “already broken” Medicaid would lead to catastrophic results. But all that has happened as a result of Medicaid expansion so far is that millions of low-income people across the country have gained health insurance coverage.
The Affordable Care Act has already had a positive effect in Texas. One million Texans have received health insurance through the federal ACA exchanges. Yet, it could be much better, if only Republican leadership followed the example of other states who have benefitted from embracing the Affordable Care Act.
Unfortunately for Texans, Republican elected officials are spending more time breaking the law than implementing it. And that means our state will continue to suffer.