News Room

March 3, 2008

Today, Texas leads the United States in the number of people without health insurance. Harris county leads the state with over 800,000 uninsured residents. Dallas follows with almost 500,000 uninsured residents. In El Paso, 33 percent of the population is uninsured. One in four children has no health insurance at all.

Written by Senator Eliot Shapleigh,


Borderland report shows the eyes of all America on universal healthcare and the Texas model soon taking center stage.

 Our healthcare system in Texas is broken.  With the eyes of all America on universal healthcare, the Texas model will soon take center stage.  

How many of us have had a sick child at home and no health insurance to see a doctor?  How many of us have opened the mail to see a hospital bill we couldn't pay?  How many of us want a better system of care.

Too many Texans live in a fractured healthcare system that excludes them and that they can't afford.  And today, the Texas counties on the U.S.-Mexico border represent the most challenged health care system in the United States.

In El Paso, Yolie Garcia, a mother of three, struggles daily without insurance for her children.  Her income from a local call center disqualifies her children from Medicaid and CHIP coverage—so she pays out-of-pocket for the cardiologist her second-youngest child visits every month.

To cover costs, she visits payday lenders for high-interest loans.  "It's digging up one hole to cover another one," she said.  "I just want the best for my kids."

Today, Texas leads the United States in the number of people without health insurance.  Harris county leads the state with over 800,000 uninsured residents.  Dallas follows with almost 500,000 uninsured residents.  In El Paso, 33 percent of the population is uninsured.  One in four children has no health insurance at all.

These are the real facts on healthcare in Texas.  And there are more.

Texas also has the most uninsured children in the nation.  Texas ranks 44th for the poor covered by Medicaid and 3rd in the rate of obesity.   Texas leads the nation in teen births.

These statistics represent real challenges.  We are a young state with great potential for the future—but today we must address these symptoms of a systemic healthcare failure.

First, we must make existing healthcare programs accessible to all Texans.  Despite the health crisis and significant health disparities on the Border, and the fact that Texas already trails other states in the allocation of health care resources, lawmakers have made inhumane health and human service budget cuts over recent legislative sessions.

Texas shortchanged its citizens with accounting gimmicks that actually added up to huge reductions in services and benefits for our people.  These budget cuts were cleverly disguised to make it appear as if funding for health and human services is being "maximized," but sadly, quite the opposite has occurred.  

Funding for such state-supported health programs as Medicaid and CHIP, nursing home and hospice care, community care, university teaching hospitals, state and local district employee insurance coverage, and health care coverage for adult and youth inmates, has been reduced by reducing income guidelines and eliminating participation, making it more difficult for people to become eligible (or remain eligible) for services, eliminating benefits that were previously available, and reducing payments to health care providers who are serving those who are eligible.

The Health Opportunity Pool passed in SB10 will take scarce dollars for public hospitals and put it into insurance company pockets.  It is the wrong approach.

Second, we must develop creative solutions to care for more Texans.  In Galveston County, an innovative program may offer part of the solution to helping reduce the number of uninsured residents in Texas.  

Called the "Three-Share Plan," the program will help offer low-cost health insurance to the working uninsured who would otherwise not be able to afford coverage.  Under the plan, the cost of health insurance would be split three ways between the employer, the employee, and government funds.   

Another option is universal health coverage.  As of January 2008, eight states had enacted or announced universal health care plans.  Once fully implemented, programs in Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine aim to cover all residents—while plans in Hawaii, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin will provide coverage to all children.   Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation that would increase the availability of coverage for children.

In July 2006, Illinois implemented the All Kids program, the first children's universal coverage program in the country.  Using state funds exclusively, all uninsured children in the state are eligible for coverage without regard to income, health status, or citizenship.  Between July 2006 and April 2007, 50,000 previously uninsured children had health insurance

In Maine, the Dirigo Health Reform Act of 2003 hopes to make health coverage affordable to every citizen by 2009.  By September 2006, 11,100 individuals and 700 small businesses were enrolled in the DirigoChoice program and 5,000 additional low-income parents had insurance through Medicaid.

The Texas Borderlands clearly face numerous health-related challenges, many of which are exacerbated by the area's poor access to health care, lack of resources, and dismal health infrastructure.  To address these problems and ensure a brighter future for the citizens of the Border region, Texas' state leaders must improve accessibility to existing programs and develop new creative solutions for healthcare.

Download this document for more information.

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