Congratulations, Harris County, for not having the highest rate of uninsured residents in the country any more.
An estimated 29.9 percent of Harris County residents lacked health insurance in 2010, according to the new U.S. Census Bureau data, a smaller share than Miami-Dade County’s 35.8 percent and Dallas County’s 31 percent. The rankings represent a reversal of those released two years ago, when Harris had the highest rate among the nation’s large counties, Dallas the second highest and Miami-Dade the third.
“Hopefully, this is a sign we’re finally beginning to turn the corner,” said Ron Cookston, executive director of Gateway to Care, a nonprofit group that seeks to improve access to health services. “This is the first time I can remember such an improvement.”
Still, Texas again dominated the uninsured numbers, with 13 of the 15 U.S. counties, large and small, ranked as having the highest rates of uninsured, most in the Rio Grande Valley. The 10 highest-ranked Texas counties were Hudspeth (No. 1 at 41.4 percent), Briscoe, Hall, Menard, Hidalgo, Collingsworth, Presidio, Cameron, Cottle and Webb (36.8 percent). Texas also had five of the next six counties.
In the census numbers released two years ago, the 14 highest rates were all Texas counties.
Tarrant (23.6 percent), Bexar (23.1 percent) and Travis (22.7 percent) ranked behind Dallas and Harris in the percentage of uninsured residents among counties with populations of 1 million or more. Among those slightly under 1 million, El Paso (32.8) and Travis (22.7 percent) also had high uninsured rates.
Hey, you know what would make a real dent in those numbers? The Affordable Care Act being fully implemented, in particular Medicaid expansion. For reasons I cannot comprehend, our Republican state leaders, who have had a decade or more in control of the state, have never shown any interest in addressing this problem except to make it worse, and have been utterly hostile to the one thing that could and would make it better, if only they’d shut up and get out of the way. County officials may be able to work around the state’s intransigence on this, but I will say again what a shame and a loss it is that they have to do so. I do not understand why people are not outraged by this.