Texas houses the world’s largest medical campus with 14 hospitals and three medical schools spread across 14 square blocks. The Texas Medical Center draws former first ladies and even Arab sheiks to their high-tech facilities with aquariums and spraying fountains.
However, for more than six million Texans without Texas health coverage, these world-class health care institutions remain largely out of reach. Texas is still the state with the highest percentage of population without health coverage. During Governor Rick Perry’s tenure, the 24.6 percent uninsured rate boomed to 35 percent this year. In human terms, that translates to one out of three people lacking health insurance for Texas in Harris County, which includes Houston.
Dr. Leonard Zwelling, an oncologist at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, expressed it this way: “Houston is such a rich city, with some of the best medical care in the world… And yet the people without insurance have a heck of a time getting into most of these facilities because they can’t pay.” For Dr. Zwelling, this is “ground zero” in the health care disaster.
Rationing Texas Health Insurance Spreads Pain Across Texas
According to researchers, so many people going without Texas health insurance plans means that Texas pays the cost with a host of health problems. Overall, quality in the delivery of health care is poorer than in every other state. In the 2010 report released by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Texas had poor health care quality for preventive, acute and chronic care, including conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
Commonwealth Fund data on the state’s health system performance ranked Texas third to the last when it comes to the percentage of adults with a regular source of medical care. Texas placed 39th in the percentage of adults over 50 who get screening procedures such as mammograms and colonoscopies. And, one fifth of the state’s pregnant women do not get prenatal care during their first trimester. As for children, more than a third of them did not receive preventive care and immunization rates were low, as well. According to doctors, a lot of people without Texas health insurance die of treatable diseases because they delay seeking medical help due to the cost or because they have long waiting periods to get appointments to see specialists.
Can the U.S. still be called the richest country in the world with that standard for health care? In many countries, health care is considered a human right and it is not rationed. Health care reform has made some progress, but reform has yet to reach all U.S. citizens.
People who can afford even low-cost high-deductible policies have more access to health care after reform. Texas health insurance plans now cover preventive care even if you haven’t met your deductible for the year. While this doesn’t help everyone who needs medical attention, it does add preventive care with no out-of-pocket costs to the most affordable TX health insurance policies. Note that any plan you purchased before reform doesn’t have to step up coverage. Only policies purchased after September 2010 have the expanded benefits.
Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plans (PCIP) have also helped people who were too sick to even buy TX health insurance. Children are already guaranteed coverage regardless of bad health, but adults continue to be declined coverage until 2014. Until then, PCIP makes coverage available to adults who need it most, but it does come at a price. It’s not until 2014 that the requirement for most U.S. citizens to maintain health insurance comes up, and at that time, assistance will also be available to pay for health insurance.