Uninsured Rate Drops, but Many Hispanic Texans Still Without Insurance

Approximately 2 million Hispanics living in Texas are uninsured.

A recent study found that despite efforts from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to lower the rate of uninsured individuals, many Hispanics living in Texas are still without insurance.

In a report published by Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy and the Episcopal Health Foundation (EHF), researchers found that one-third of Hispanics living in Texas between the ages of 18 and 64 were uninsured. They estimate that approximately 2 million Hispanics are still uninsured, although the uninsured rate dropped 14% from 2013 to 2016.

Approximately half of these individuals would be eligible for insurance coverage through ACA marketplace or private plans, according to the study.

“We estimate 920,000 Hispanics are eligible for coverage now, even without Medicaid expansion or any other widespread change in coverage,” said Elena Marks, EHF president and CEO. “This report clearly shows the need for outreach and enrollment efforts to continue to focus on Hispanic Texans who are uninsured but eligible for coverage.”

The researchers found that 51% of this uninsured population have annual incomes less than 139% of the federal poverty level. They also discovered there are 300,000 Hispanics who fall into a coverage gap, and are not eligible for federal assistance.

"Unless Texas expands Medicaid or devises an alternative system of coverage, these 300,000 Hispanics will likely remain uninsured," Marks said.

It was also estimated that an additional 780,000 undocumented immigrants cannot get insurance through ACA marketplaces. Only 10% of Caucasian individuals are uninsured in Texas, according to the report.

“After 3 open-enrollment periods of the ACA marketplace, the uninsured rate among Hispanics is still 3 times that of whites,” said Vivian Ho, chair in health economics at Rice's Baker Institute and director of the institute's Center for Health and Biosciences. “The disparity between the 2 groups remains striking. The Hispanic population is growing at a faster rate than the state average, which makes it increasingly important to the entire state that Hispanics gain affordable health insurance coverage.”

However, researchers also found that Hispanic Texans sign up for ACA plans at twice the rate of Caucasians. Only 11% of Caucasians are covered by these plans, compared with 21% of insured Hispanics, according to the report.

"This shows that the ACA marketplace is an important source of affordable health insurance for Hispanics," Ho concluded.