RIck Perry learn to love

Rick Perry has catapulted to the lead in the race for the Republican Presidential nominee.  Of course, he hates “Obamacare” as much as the other Republican candidates, but unlike some of them, he actually has a 10-year record to run on.

The Great State of Texas leads the nation when it comes to uninsured.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s State Health Facts, 6,258,700 Texans (or 26%) of Texas residents are uninsured compared to 17% nationally. 1,300,000 (or 18%) of the State’s children are uninsured compared to 10% nationally.  Mr. Perry’s closest competitor in the other race – the one for the White House – Mr. Romney presided over the passage of health reform in Massachusetts (“Obamneycare”).  Massachusetts now has the lowest rate of uninsureds in the country at a paltry 5%.  Even if you are lucky enough to have health insurance in Texas, you pay more for the privilege.  The average employee contribution for family coverage is 31% of the premium compared to 27% nationally.

Despite the fact that Texas has an unemployment rate that is lower than the rest of the country (8.4% vs 9.1%) 23% of Texans live in poverty (compared to 20% nationally).  If you are poor and uninsured, you might not have enough money to go to the doctor when you are sick.  And, in fact, that is what was found in the 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey done by the Centers for Disease Control.  3,387,000 Texans (18.8%) reported not going to a doctor because of the cost compared with 14.6% nationally.  Almost half (49.6%) of Texas children have no medical home compared to 42.6% nationally.  Only 61.6% of pregnant women receive prenatal care in the first trimester compared to 83.2% nationally.  And only 67.3% (versus 72%) of children (0-17 years old) have been seen by a medical practitioner in the prior 12 months.


The state of health care in the state of Texas

Now with all of these grim facts about health insurance and lack of access to care, you might think that Texas health status statistics might be pretty miserable as well.  But that is not actually what the Kaiser Family Foundation data shows.  Texas, in fact, has a pretty average health status picture; not stellar, but only occasionally being down at the bottom of the barrel along with the Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.  Here is a sampling:

Texas Texas State Ranking US national average Worst Rate Best Rate
Infant death rate/ 1000 live births (2007) 6.3 17 6.8 12.8

(Wash DC)



Life expectancy at birth (2007) 78.3 28 78.6 74.8




Low birthweight rate as a percent of births (2008) 8.4% 31 8.2% 11.8




Teen birth rate/ 1000 females (2008) 63.4% 49 41.5% 65.7



(New Hampshire)

Child death rate/per 100,000 (2007) 21 27 19 34



(Rhode Island)

% of overweight or obese children (2007) 32.2% 32 31.6% 44.4




% of overweight or obese adults (2010) 66.5% 42 63.8% 70.0%




Adults  with diabetes (2010) 9.7% 34 8.7% 13.2%




Diabetes deaths/100,000 (2007) 24.9 35 22.5 35.5




Heart disease deaths/100,000 (2007) 191.9 28 190.9 266.5




Cerebrovascular deaths/100,000 (2007) 49 42 42.2 57.4



(New York)

Smoking rate (2010) 15.8% 18 17.2% 26.8%




Childhood immunization rate (2009) 74% 14 72% 48%




Adult flu immunization rate (2010) 67.2% 23 67.4% 59.3%





When perusing the data in the table above, it is important to note that small differences between Texas rates and the national average can nevertheless be significant because the populations being studied are large.  For example, although there is only a 6.8 percentage point difference between Texas’ cerebrovascular deaths and the national average, Texas ranks 42nd in terms of rate of stroke deaths.  Similarly, a 0.2 percentage point difference between Texas and the national average for low birth weight babies, places Texas at #31 on the list.


When it comes to health, do we really want to be more like Texas?

Texas is last in the nation in terms of health insurance coverage and only average and often below average in terms of health status.  When it comes to health, do we really want to be more like Texas?