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Affordable Care Act

Texas Uninsured Rate Dips Slightly, But Obamacare Not Primary Cause

Uninsured rate dropped 1.3%, mostly because more Texans got coverage through jobs.

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The survey by scholars at Rice University’s Baker Institute looked at adult Texans between the ages of 18 and 64. It compared their insurance status back in September with their insurance status in March.

The results show the uninsured rate dropped by 1.3 percent (from 24.8 percent to 23.5 percent.)

“This is a remarkable change in insurance and uninsured rates over a relatively short period of time,” said Elena Marks, one of the study authors. Marks is also the president of the Episcopal Health Foundation in Houston.

But Marks also called the data “early news.” The survey may not reflect the full impact of the Affordable Care Act on the uninsured in Texas. That’s because there was a big surge in last-minute sign-ups for Obamacare that continued through April 15 –  after this survey was completed.

Marks says the 1.3 percent drop mostly reflects the fact that more people are getting insurance through their jobs.

“(It) could mean that more people are becoming employed,” Marks said. “It could also mean that more employers are offering plans.”

But another factor may be at work: Texas workers might also be making different choices about whether to sign up for coverage at work.

“It could also mean that more employees are opting to take employer-sponsored coverage when they previously declined it, either because the price was high and now the price may be lower, or because they understand the individual mandate means they have to obtain some kind of coverage.”

The Affordable Care Act includes penalties for people who don’t obtain insurance, although there are some exceptions.

The decrease in the uninsured in Texas mirrors trends in other states, according to a new study by the Urban Institute. States like Texas that chose not to expand Medicaid had, on average, a 1.5 percent reduction in the uninsured rate. States that did expand Medicaid under the federal health law had a bigger decrease of 4 percentage points.  

President Obama just announced that eight million Americans signed up for an Obamacare health plan in 2014, but state-by-state numbers weren’t yet available late Monday.

Image: Flickr/David Hilowitz

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