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AUSTIN, TEXAS—Today Children's Defense Fund-Texas joined more than 45 Texas organizations, faith and community groups, to launch the Texas Left Me Out campaign in English and Spanish, the only statewide effort to close the health care coverage gap in Texas. The campaign is collecting stories from uninsured mothers, fathers, and others who Texas leaders left out in a coverage gap, connecting them with available health care options and ways to advocate.
What is the coverage gap?
While thousands of Texas families living above the poverty line are successfully purchasing health plans on the Marketplace and getting help to pay for them, more than one million of our state’s poorest citizens are being left out due to Texas’ decision to refuse billions of federal dollars to extend health coverage to them.
Under the nation's health law, every U.S. citizen was supposed to have a way to get health care coverage. People with very low incomes would be covered by Medicaid as long as their state leaders agreed. But since Texas said no, many Texans are now in a coverage gap with no affordable option available to them. The coverage gap includes parents, caregivers, veterans and their spouses, as well as workers in child care, health care, retail, restaurants, construction, and other service industries.
Research shows that when low-income parents are uninsured, the impact to children is negative. Children in some of the poorest families whose parents are uninsured are more likely to end up uninsured themselves or to go without needed care. When parents are covered, kids do better because they are more likely to get enrolled, stay enrolled, and receive needed check-ups and other care.
“All of us know the people being left out of coverage; they are the working poor and we work with them every day,” said Sister JT Dwyer of Seton Healthcare Family. “It’s the veteran and his wife, the construction worker who helped build your neighborhood, the person that takes care of your child at the nursery and the health attendant that helps you care for your aging parents.”
Irma Aguilar is just one of more than one million Texans left with nowhere to turn for affordable health coverage. A 28-year-old mother of four from San Antonio, Aguilar is an assistant manager at a national pizza chain but still does not make enough money to qualify for financial assistance in the Marketplace. She has damaged disks in her neck and suffers from high blood pressure that makes her dizzy, but she’s unable to afford treatment.
“I need to be able to keep working and providing for my family, but every single day I worry about what would happen to my children if I had to stop working because of my health conditions,” she said.
Health care navigators and certified application counselors at in-person enrollment sites all over the state are turning away hardworking Texans hoping to get health insurance because they make too little to qualify for financial assistance. Elizabeth Colvin with Insure Central Texas and her staff are having those tough conversations every day.
“We have been left with an awkward situation—a single parent of two earning $17,000 a year will receive no financial assistance for health coverage, while a second uninsured parent of two earning $20,000 a year will qualify for full health coverage for $33-per-month or less,” Colvin said. “We have to tell people that they have no options and there is no worse feeling when you know someone desperately needs a surgery or medical attention. We have to deliver the news that our society has left them out.”
Supporting organizations have presented a letter to the Texas Legislature, highlighting the urgency of this problem and alerting them to the Texas Left Me Out campaign.
More than 640 Texans have already signed on through the Texas Left Me Out website, which is available in English and Spanish. Uninsured Texans can also call 866-697-3155 or text “Leftout,” or “Cobertura” in Spanish, to 30644 to connect to the campaign.