New Census data on poverty and health insurance paint a picture of a Texas where too many kids are growing up poor. Still, the efforts of one state agency are helping more of them hang on to health care coverage.
As our CEO Eileen Garcia noted in a press statement yesterday:
Holding the line [on health coverage] is notable at a time when many parents lost their jobs and fewer employers offered families health care. Texas, more than most states, has experienced a precipitous drop in health care for children linked to parents’ jobs.
How does Texas compare? Well, all over the country children are less likely to get their health care through a parent's job than they were back in 2000. But where the national trend shows a 16% drop in this kind of private insurance for kids, here in Texas the decline was closer to 24% over the same time period.
As our friends at the Center for Public Policy Priorities have explained, fewer jobs are offering health coverage for the same reason fewer families are unable to buy it on their own: the cost of private insurance has gone through the roof. Texas may be a low-cost state for some things, but when it comes to private health care, our costs are as high or higher than the average--both because we have a population with a lot of expensive health problems, like diabetes, and a lot of people without insurance whose dependance on expensive emergency room care, drives up costs for our whole health care system.
Health reform is helping some businesses continue to offer private insurance to workers and their children, but something else helps more kids in our state, too. Eileen again:
Had it not been for programs like Medicaid for children and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), hundreds of thousands more Texas kids would have gone without health care for all of 2010. Instead, since the economic downturn began, Texas has made gains in allowing children to have preventive care and see a doctor when they need to—gains Texans Care for Children remains concerned may yet be undone by the last legislature’s deep cuts to the very health care programs children rely on. We appreciate the leadership Health and Human Services Commissioner Tom Suehs has shown in working to make our state agency more effective at connecting children who qualify for coverage with the health care they need.
Health insurance wasn't the only subject the Census had new data about yesterday (and there will be more findings to come next week, by the way). Nationally, the Census found that median household income fell by about 7% between 2007 and 2010, and our country is experiencing its highest poverty rate since 1993, with the biggest climb occurring among children.
As bleak as things are, it's important to remember that our government programs are making a lot of lives better. Just as CHIP and Medicaid are letting kids see a doctor, despite larger forces that would otherwise would have prevented it, programs like the earned income tax credit, unemployment insurance, and food stamps kept more than 3 million Americans from becoming poor last year
Have you let your members of Congress know what you want prioritized in the debt talks? If you haven't spoken up yet for things like food aid and health care for children, our national partners have made it easy with some new tools you'll want to check out. Visit these pages from Voices for America's Children, Half in Ten: The Campaign to Cut Poverty in Half in 10 Years, and Families USA for great resources to let your elected leaders know kids matter today.