Texas has the highest rate of uninsured children in the nation

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured children in the nation

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

Texas has the highest number of uninsured kids in the nation, according to a Georgetown University Center for Children and Families Report. 

In addition, the open enrollment period to purchase health coverage began on November 1, and cumulative sign ups are falling about seven percent, compared to last year at this time.

"When you have a high number of uninsured adults, it's just natural that their kids are going to be uninsured as well," Steve Beck, senior vice president of Covenant Health, said.

He said emergency laws in Texas give people, particularly parents, a false sense of security.

Those laws require hospitals to provide stabilizing care to any patient in an emergency room.

"Some of the attitude becomes: I'm going to get treated, whether I have insurance or not. So it may not be a priority for the cost it takes to have that done, but often times their kids may be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, and they haven't taken advantage of that," Beck said.

Ron Hettler, president of Hettler Insurance, said the elimination of the individual mandate penalty is leading to fewer families purchasing health coverage during this enrollment period.

"You lower the speeding penalty to $50 and people would probably speed more often. So in this case: You lower the penalty to zero, and people will say I don't want to pay anything for insurance," Hettler said.

He said parents better think twice before adopting this mindset. 

"You take a chance with a child, and it's a whole lot graver decision than if you're 50 or 60 years old. You're taking away somebody's future for 20-30 years, and that child didn't have the opportunity to make that decision," Hettler said.

Beck said the best option is to be proactive with health coverage and to not put it off.

"A simple illness that becomes untreated, unattended, or not taken care of, turns into a greater illness, and then often times, what could've been taken care of in a physician's clinic, all of a sudden ends up in an emergency room. A patient gets admitted and all of a sudden, you're having expensive care," Beck said.

This is why Hettler said people need to take advantage while this enrollment period is still open.

"When that broken leg happens, or that diagnosis comes, you have to wait until next year, or January 1 of the following year, to have coverage for that condition. Those ensuing eight, nine months could be the difference between life and health," Hettler said.

The open enrollment deadline for coverage under the Affordable Care Act is December 15.

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