Governor Perry Wins Again: Uninsured Children in Texas is a Matter of Choice, Not Poverty
by Linda Vega on October 17, 2011 at 5:49 PM
In the last Republican Debate, where the candidates gave their points of view about economics, Mitt Romney used the forum to deceive the American public once again. During the debate when the Candidates were asking each other questions, Governor Rick Perry asked Mitt Romney why did "Romneycare" in Massachusetts increase small business premium healthcare cost of 16%? Mr. Romney immediately chided Gov. Perry with incorrect attacks. For example, Mr. Romney stated that “under Perry's watch, one million Texas children are uninsured”. Mitt Romney was not accurate in his attack. He stressed that the cause of uninsured children in Texas was due to greater inequality, but he also claimed that in Massachusetts "We have the lowest number of kids as a percentage uninsured of any state in America. You have the highest....under President Bush, the percentage uninsured went down. Under your leadership, it's gone up."
But while Romney might have been accurate on the number of uninsured children in Texas, the reasons are not exactly what Romney claimed. For instance, unlike Massachusetts where parents have lost the right to make choices for themselves and their children when it comes to healthcare, in Texa,s healthcare is still a matter of choice and personal freedom. It has little if any to do with poverty or inequality.
“We have less than 1 percent of our kids that are uninsured" in Massachusetts”, said Romney, who signed a law designed to get uninsured residents covered. "You have a million kids uninsured in Texas. A million kids. The truth is, our plan is different [from Obama's plan], and the people of Massachusetts, if they don't like it, they can get rid of it”—Mitt Romney
The health insurance he quotes above is the same one that Romney wrongly coerced citizens into obtaining as a mandate, and the same one that prevents families from poverty and protects children from becoming uninsured. So while the number of uninsured children in Texas may indeed be 1,000,000, the reasons for these numbers are not the cause of poverty, or lack of legislation to protect children in Texas, as Romney claims. In fact, Texas is among one of the states that has passed more legislation to guarantee healthcare access for children. Furthermore, unlike in Massachusetts where businesses, private citizens, and parents do not have the right to make choices since “Romneycare” is a mandate, in Texas parents have had that right and have opted out of the state and federal healthcare program like CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). In essence, while Romney in Massachusetts forced families into a mandate and made small business pay for any additional cost, in Texas parents have been opting out the programs for the last 2 years, even if the cost is only $25 per family. Many families have chosen not to insure their children at their own expense. So while the 1 million number of uninsured children may be accurate, it is not due to Governor Perry’s apathy as a Governor.
According to Politifact, in Massachusetts, there were 51,400 uninsured children, that is, birth to age of 18, or 3%. Of those with insurance, 65% received it from an employer and 29% received it from Medicaid. In comparison, Texas had 1,303,000 children without insurance over the same period, or 18%. Of those with insurance, 42% received it from employment, 35% received it from Medicaid, and 3% from an individually purchased plan, and 2% from other public plans. However, in Massachussetts the cost to businesses to insure children is 65% under Romneycare, while in Texas it is only 42%—a 23% difference and a burden on business owing to Romneycare.
Furthermore, while one million may sound like a lot, when one compares the population of Texas of 25 million compared to only 6.5 million in Massachusetts, the numbers are more in favor or Texas. In other words, Texas has 4 times the population of Massachusetts. One million children in Texas will be equal to 250,000 children in Massachusetts. In fact, during the fiscal year 2008-09, the number of children eligible for CHIP in Texas was 6,442,738, but only 1,441,774 were eligible in Massachusetts. According to the 2010 U.S. Census (from 2008 to 2010), Texas had 51% of children under the age of 18 who were 200% below the federal poverty line; however, only 11.5% were uninsured. In Massachusetts, 30.1% of children under the age of 18 were below the 200% poverty line, but only 1.6 were uninsured or there were 51,400 uninsured children, or 3 percent. Of those with insurance, 65% received it from employment and 29% received it from Medicaid. However, uninsured children are not the result of policies aimed at helping poor families but rather a lack of information or choice.
Furthermore, in Texas, 64% of families live with an income above the poverty level. Also, only 15% of families in Texas live between 150 to 200 below federal poverty level, which makes them eligible for CHIP in which they would have to pay only between $25 to $50 dollars to be enrolled. Enrollment fees are $50 or less per family, per year.
Most co-pays for doctor visits and prescriptions range from $25 to $5. Moreover, under CHIP, a family making only about $10,000 a year, with as many as 8 children, pays the same amount of $50 as those families with only 1 child. Therefore, it is mathematically impossible to think that a family of making $10,000 did not have $50 to pay for their family health insurance under CHIP. The choice of the family not to insure the children is their decision based on finances, priorities, or other factor not on the fact that there is no option for insurance. Hence, Mitt Romney’s accusation that Governor Perry’s Governorship has caused children to not have health insurance is untrue.
So while Mitt Romney presumes that the rate of uninsured children in Texas is the lack of policies addressing the needs of the poor the evidence shows otherwise. In fact, in Texas there are ample federal programs guaranteeing access to healthcare to families with a of cost next to nothing. However, unlike in Massachusetts where the state government forces parents in the program, in Texas parents are responsible for enrolling their children in a healthcare program. The reality is that some parents still opt out of the programs, or are unaware of such programs. The alleged 1,000,000 uninsured children in Texas is matter of personal choices or lack of information, but it has never been about poverty, low-income, and inequality. More importantly, Massachusetts is a liberal state where citizens and families are comfortable in allowing government bureaucracy to organize their lives. Conversely, in Texas, families still enjoy the meaning of personal freedom even when opting out of insurance coverage for their family. Therefore, a Texas “RomneyCare” mandate could never be implemented in Texas because of the state’s character of self-reliance and freedom to make your own choices, thanks to Governor Perry.