Houston's Uninsured Rate Shows No Improvement

The U.S. Census Bureau says fewer people are in need of health insurance this year. The census report shows the number of people who lack health insurance dropped by more than a million in the past year. But Houston's uninsured rate shows no improvement. Laurie Johnson reports.
The numbers for health coverage aren't necessarily rosy. Nationally, 45.7 million people don't have health insurance. But that's down from 47 million the year before.

Karen Love, executive director of the Harris County Health Care Alliance, says Houston's uninsured rate didn't improve. The census report shows the Houston Metropolitan region has 1.55 million uninsured people.

"But that's up from 1.1 million estimate in 2004. So the number of people is continuing to grow as does our population in Harris County."

Love says this region doesn't have a safety net big enough to provide care for that entire uninsured population. For example, the Harris County Hospital District saw 300,000 unique patients in its last fiscal year.

"So if they're seeing 300,000 people, that leaves well over a million people who are either not getting care or who are seeking care in other non-profit hospitals and clinics and federally-qualified health centers. We just don't have a system with the capacity to care for that many people on an uncompensated basis."

One area that has improved in both Houston and Texas is enrollment in the Children's Health Insurance Program. But that improvement has not made a discernable difference in the local uninsured rate.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...