PolitiFact Texas: Texas Leads in Uninsured Residents

Our weekly check-in with the Texas Truth-O-Meter.

By Alain StephensJuly 8, 2015 8:06 am|

Texas is No. 1 in the nation in uninsured residents – across the board according to State Representative Donna Howard … but is that a fact?

Just our luck – Gardner Selby of the Austin American Statesman’s fact checking project, PolitiFact Texas, is here to clear things up.

Howard was quick to applaud the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Obamacare law last month.

That’s right. She sent out a press release saying it’s good the court permitted federal subsidies for health insurance to continue. She went on to say it’s time for Texas to expand insurance options, probably a reference to Republican leaders not agreeing so far to open Medicaid to more adults.

And of course she said this state has “the nation’s highest rate and highest number of uninsured.” But Texas does has the greatest share of uninsured residents – correct?

That has long been the case, and we’ve found that still to be the case. Through 2013 at least, in one federal survey Texas  was first in the nation with 22 percent of Texans lacking coverage, another showed them tied with Nevada with 20 percent.

Howard also said Texas has the highest raw number of uninsured. Where’d that come from?

We asked her, and remembered in 2013, we rated ‘Mostly False’ another legislator’s declaration that Texas then had the nation’s most uninsured: 6 million people. That just wasn’t so – California, which is much more populace, was home to about 1 million more uninsured residents.

But that was in 2011. Surely California – which has more residents than Texas – would have more uninsured people?

Right and you just said a key thing – you said ‘in 2011.’ It’s worth remembering that the full Obamacare law rolled into place in 2014. What that means, in the Democratic-led state of California, there was hefty promotion of the subsidies to help some people buy insurance.

Also, unlike Texas, California moved to expand Medicaid access to many adults previously lacking coverage, all of that taking effect through 2014..

Okay, What about the numbers after Obamacare became the law of the land?

In 2014, Texas saw a burst in residents using subsidies to buy policies. [In the] meantime, California’s insurance enrollments soared, it appears.

‘It appears’ – seems a clarification might be forthcoming??

Here’s the deal: we failed to find an authoritative count showing there are now more Texans than Californians without insurance. What we did find was a report pointed out to us by Anne Dunkelberg of the Center for Public Policy Priorities – that showed that through 2014, according to some surveys, 19 percent of Texans were without insurance and 12 percent of Californians.

We multiplied those percentages by each state’s estimated population. Result: About 5.2 million Texans lacked coverage, by our math, compared to 4.7 million Californians.

Then the researchers told us this wasn’t a scientifically solid way to go about reaching good counts. The message to us basically was, wait for the census bureau’s 2014 survey results, coming later this year.

So, how did Howard’s statement ultimately come out on the Texas Truth-O-Meter?

Mostly True: Texas does continue to lead in its percentage of uninsured, and it newly looks like Texas has the greatest raw number of uninsured, but that’s not an official figure yet.