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In Texas, Lack Of Healthcare Coverage Affects Parents And Families

Aug 17, 2007
Health coverage for the family helps to assist those families in obtaining more affordable healthcare services, says a report by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The Foundation, which based the report on its 2005 Low-Income Coverage and Access Survey, makes the argument that not having health insurance affects not just a parent's health, but also the well-being of the entire family.

The vast majority of low-income uninsured parents, according to the report, are without access to health coverage. At the same time, their children are also much more likely to be without health insurance. Indeed, four out of 10 low-income parents, defined as those with income below 200% of the federal poverty level (about $40,000 for a family of four in 2007) do not have health insurance coverage.

Throughout Texas, and especially in cities such as Dallas, Houston and Austin, the percentage of uninsured residents is higher than any other state -- more than 24% according to most observers, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Kaiser Family Foundation report also states that most low-income uninsured parents are in working families but with employment in areas of the economy that do not typically offer health coverage. Those sectors include construction, service and agricultural jobs, areas with the lowest levels of employer-sponsored insurance. The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that only about 25% of low-income workers in these industries were covered through an employer-sponsored plan in 2005.

Workers without health insurance are also more likely to work for firms with fewer than 25 employees, those companies being least likely to provide employer coverage.

More than half of uninsured low-income parents in employed families work for companies that do not offer coverage to any employees. Further, they do not have coverage through a spouse. Also, an additional 35% of low-income uninsured parents are not eligible for coverage through either their employer or their spouse's employer, either because they have not been employed long enough or they do not work enough hours to be covered.

Only 13% of low-income uninsured parents have access to employer coverage, the Kaiser report says. At the same time, the coverage that is available is too expensive for most parents to afford.

Although many children are in families where they would be eligible for the State Children's Health Insurance Program, concerns exist over widespread knowledge of the programs -- only 47% say they have heard of SCHIP.

Research, the Kaiser report says, has documented the importance of family coverage as a tool to reach uninsured children and to improve access to healthcare.

Low-income uninsured parents often have serious health problems, says the Kaiser report. Unfortunately, financial barriers block access to care.

More than one quarter of uninsured parents in low-income families say they have fair or poor health, with 14% saying they experience pain almost every day and 8% reporting they have a disability that prevents them from participating fully in work or other activities. Nearly half of uninsured parents, the Kaiser report says, say they have a chronic condition, leading to the likelihood of their receiving less care with worse health outcomes than for those with similar health conditions who do have health insurance.

While low-income uninsured parents have serious healthcare problems, the Kaiser report states that their conditions are far worse than those with insured parents. Low-income uninsured parents, for example, are half as likely to have visited a doctor for preventive care in the past 12 months. Further, those without a medical home or regular preventive care may delay treatment in the early stages of a condition, allowing the condition to worsen and possibly leading to more expensive treatment later on.

The Kaiser report also states that lack of care causes serious health and financial consequences for low-income uninsured parents, with 60% saying they saw their condition get worse as a result of not getting timely care and 30% reporting a loss of time at work or other activities.

As the Kaiser report summarizes, health insurance for low-income parents influences not only their own health and access to care but also the well-being of their families. When parents have health insurance, their children are more likely to be covered as well, giving them access to healthcare.
About the Author
Pat Carpenter writes for Precedent Insurance Company. Precedent puts a new spin on health insurance. Learn more at Precedent.com
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