Uninsured Texans

The issue of the uninsured in Texas and Harris County is not getting better. Houston Public Radio's Capella Tucker reports community leaders are taking part in a nationwide effort to urge national leaders to look at the issue of the uninsured.

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Ron Cookston is the executive director of Gateway to Care. It's a group that has been working on the uninsured issue since 2000. He says during that time the number of uninsured has increased from 38 million to 46 million nationwide. Texas continues to have the highest rate of uninsured.

"We've increased clinics. Texas Children's Hospital has added clinics. We've added Federally Qualified Health Centers, we've quadrupled them. The Hospital District is now serving 30 to 40 percent more patients then they were."

Cookston says it's time for elected politicians to step in to help develop a solution. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has released another study showing the gap in health coverage. Spokesman Adam Coyne says those without insurance don't receive basic health services.

"More than 50 percent of uninsured women age 40 to 64 have not had a mammogram in the past year. And nearly 75 percent of uninsured adults, age 40 to 64, have never had a colonoscopy. These are basic, routine and necessary check ups for everyone of that age."

Officials say health insurance premiums for an individual can cost anywhere from $600 to $1,400 per month for a family. Coyne says they're amounts the uninsured can't afford.

"And they're working Americans. They serve our meals, they ring up our sales. They were the person who drove me here in a taxi from my hotel. They are the faces of America."

In Houston it's estimated that 1.4 million of the uninsured are children. Houston Children's Defense Fund Executive Director Barbara Best says 90 percent of those children have at least one working parent. She says one option is the Children's Health Insurance Program. Best says 700,000 children are eligible but not signed up for CHIP.

"For every one-dollar invested in CHIP Texas receives $2.63 from the federal government. When families lose health insurance and come to the Harris County Hospital District or city of Houston health clinics for care, local tax payers pay 100 percent of the cost without any federal or state matching dollars. And as you might guess children without health insurance go to emergency rooms for care at a much higher rate."

Several events are planned for next week as part of Cover the Uninsured Week ... one is a CHIP enrollment drive on Saturday May 6th at the George R Brown Convention Center. More information can be found on-line at KUHF dot org. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.

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