Study: Texas women lag in health coverage, access
State’s rate of women without coverage was 24 percent last year.
About 1 in 4 Texas working-age women remain uninsured, and half said they struggled to pay medical bills or have skipped needed care because of cost, according to a new national health snapshot released Thursday.
In Texas, the rate of women without coverage was still 24 percent last year — nearly five times higher than the rate of uninsured women in New York and almost 1½ times higher than those in California, the new Commonwealth Fund’s 2016 Biennial Health Insurance Survey found.
Some of the differences among states can be explained because some states chose to expand Medicaid while Texas did not, but researchers said that doesn’t tell the whole story.
In Florida, another state that didn’t expand Medicaid, the uninsured rate was still lower, at 17 percent, than in Texas.
Overall, Texas continues to lead the nation in the number of uninsured residents.
There have been notable
national gains for women since the law known as Obamacare was fully implemented in 2014, especially when it became illegal for insurers to charge women higher premiums or deny them coverage outright simply based on gender, researchers found.
“To insurers, women’s gender was in effect a pre-existing condition that signaled the potential for higher health use and higher costs,” the Commonwealth study’s authors wrote.
In many states, including Texas, it was once common for a healthy, nonsmoking woman to pay more for a health plan than a man who was the same age and smoked, according to a separate 2012 study by the National Women’s Law Center.
Maternity coverage was also often elusive if not nonexistent. In Texas, of the 118 insurance plans offered to a 30-year-old woman in the individual market in 2012, zero came with maternity coverage, the National Law Center research found.
Such coverage became a requirement in all individual plans under Obamacare. Critics have complained the inclusion not only has driven up premium prices for everyone, it is also inherently unfair to those who didn’t need it.
But Sara Collins, vice president for health care coverage and access at the Commonwealth Fund, said such complaints are based “on a myth.”
Maternity coverage raised premiums on average only about 4 percent while the potential harm to women and families would be dramatic. Without the requirement, out-of-pocket costs for families wanting to have babies could rise 1,000 to 3,000 percent depending on the type of delivery and how complicated it was, she said.
In 2010, the number of women ages 19 to 64 nationwide who lacked insurance coverage spiked to 20 percent or about 19 million. By 2016, the rate had dropped nationally to 11 percent.
But, amid such gains, Texas women still lag far behind their peers on many health care fronts.
Half of Texas women reported having trouble paying medical bills during the previous 12 months compared with 29 percent in California and 31 percent in New York, the Commonwealth research found.
Also, the study showed that 52 percent of Texas women had failed to fill a prescription, skipped a test or follow-up appointment, or didn’t get needed specialist care because of cost. That compares with a third of women in both California and New York and 46 percent in Florida.
“It points out the sad fact that we’re still way behind in caring for all of our population, particularly women,” said Jose Camacho, executive director and general counsel for the Texas Association of Community Health Centers, about the Commonwealth findings.
He called it a confluence of events that has hit women hard. Texas not only chose not to expand Medicaid to cover the state’s poor and near-poor residents but also, through legislative actions, chose to slash funding to family planning clinics in an effort to defund abortion. Many women lost their only access to health care.
“This is the picture of what comes eventually comes down the pike,” he said.