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The media and the left spend a lot of time criticizing Texas for the number of people in the state without health insurance. Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured individuals in the country at 16%, which is also twice the national average.
The Democrats solution is to expand Medicaid, the federal program intended to serve low-income mothers, the elderly, and the disabled. They would expand eligibility to those just above the income threshold and who tend to be healthier, wealthier and without children.
Conservatives generally oppose expanding Medicaid because it blows huge holes in state budgets and, while it provides something like health insurance, it doesn’t do a very good job at delivering health care.
A new report from Texas 2036 sheds even more light on the problem and why Medicaid expansion isn’t the cure-all solution. According to their data, more than half, and as much as 71%, of the uninsured in Texas have access to Medicaid or another free or low-cost government insurance program, like Obamacare or CHIP. They found that Medicaid expansion would only cover up to 15% of Texans.
The truth is that the unenrolled are driving the problem (see a cool video about that). Among this group, Texas 2036 found that many believed that either they couldn’t afford it or that health insurance was an employment-based benefit which their employer didn’t offer.
But even if we could better educate Texans on their health insurance options, it still doesn’t solve the problem of actually getting care through government-run programs, which are rife with problems, like waiting times, poor drug coverage, and a dwindling number of providers willing take those patients.
A better solution might be hiding in plain sight. One of the requirements of non-profit hospitals is that they provide a public benefit to the community it serves, commonly called charity care. The problem is that most people don’t know about it and hospitals don’t exactly advertise free care.
In Texas, the amount non-profit hospitals spend on charity care must be equal to the tax-exempt benefit they receive, otherwise they could lose their tax-exempt status. While research on compliance rates in Texas is not available yet, one study concluded that while non-profit hospital reap tens of billions in tax breaks, charity care only makes up a tiny fraction of their expenses.
In Texas, that could mean hundreds of millions of dollars available to low- and middle-income patients to get the care they need without any extra expense to taxpayers.