A new study finds that rural Texans are more likely not to have health insurance compared to their urban counterparts. The Rural Health Policy Project report by researchers at Georgetown University and the University of North Carolina examined the gap between rural and urban uninsured rates in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, as well as states that didn’t expand Medicaid.
Patrick Bresette, executive director for the Texas branch of the Children’s Defense Fund, says the study found that 36 percent of low-income adults in rural areas of Texas didn’t have health insurance, compared to 29 percent in metro areas.
“Having looked at these insurance issues for quite a while, it really jumped out at me that we has as much as 36 percent in rural areas that were uninsured,” Bresette says. “We’ve known for a long time that Texas continues to rank last in the country – [it] has the most uninsured people – but to see the disparity … really shows we’ve got a separate problem to address.”
Bresette says that there could be a variety of reasons for the disparity. Lower-wage jobs that don’t provide health insurance could be one reason. Also, there are almost a million Texans who fit in the “coverage gap”: these are people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but also don’t qualify for subsidies on the health insurance marketplace.
To really improve the disparity, Bresette says entire families in rural areas need to be insured, not just individual family members.
“The research is really clear about this,” Bresette says. “When you can get an entire family insured, the utilization of preventative care goes up, the health status of the family improves, and obviously there is an economic benefit so that you’re not having a health emergency for the adult that suddenly hits the family budget.”
Written by Morgan Kuehler.