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Immigration, Politics, Poverty Complicate Health Care Issues In Texas

Armen Hareyan's picture

The Dallas Morning Newson Monday examined how politics, poverty and undocumented immigrants"intersect" in Texas "to make health care a thornier issue than in moststates." While state lawmakers earlier this year approved proposals toincrease funding for Medicaid and SCHIP, "they sidestepped a morewide-ranging proposal" that would have guaranteed coverage for allstate residents.

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State Rep. Sylvester Turner (D) said supportfor any new proposal that could increase funding for health programs islessened by state residents who are resentful toward immigrants' use ofcharity health care services. According to the Morning News,the high number of undocumented immigrants and uninsured stateresidents "are key differences between Texas and a state likeMassachusetts," which enacted a health insurance law this year.

Inaddition, about 3.7 million Texas residents live below the federalpoverty level, and as many as one-third of the adults younger than age65 in 2005 had incomes below 200% of the poverty level. Low-incomeworkers typically have incomes too high to be eligible for Medicaid butnot high enough to afford comprehensive health coverage, the Morning News reports. Medicaid's income threshold in Texas is 22% of the poverty level.
Meanwhile,the state has a disproportionate number of small businesses that do notoffer employee health benefits, and even when companies do offercoverage, some employees cannot afford the plans. According to the Morning News,health care has emerged as a major issue in the presidential election,"so perhaps something will change on the national level after 2008,although many think the first action will come from the moreprogressive states" (Roberson, Dallas Morning News, 12/3).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.