Are Texans At Greater Risk Of Disease Outbreaks?

Even with the surprising and unsettling mistakes that have transpired as Dallas County officials try to contain the nation’s first confirmed Ebola case, people are still at far reduced risk when compared to nations with less advanced health systems or monitoring techniques.  With the eyes of the nation fixated upon the spread of this disease, Texans should know that every effort is being made to combat any further impact on the state’s population.

But Ebola is not the only infectious disease out there.  Lots of other health risks exist, many of which are not put in the national focus as has been done with Ebola.  Meanwhile, Texas remains the state with the highest rate of uninsured people in the nation.  Eventually a correlative question has to be asked…

With so many of our poor left uninsured due to the state’s refusal of healthcare expansion, is Texas also left at greater risk of a major disease outbreak?  

It’s a tough question to answer, but the first step is to take a look at the state’s uninsured population, and realize that they aren’t just “lazy people with no job on Welfare”.  From the Texas Medical Association, here are a few interesting facts about the state’s uninsured population…

According to a summary of national data by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), groups with a high likelihood of lacking health insurance include:

  • People in families with income below 200 percent of the poverty level;
  • Hispanics;
  • Young adults, age 19 to 34;
  • People in families in which the adults worked either part-time or only part of the year; or
  • Individuals in fair or poor health status who are significantly more likely than others to be uninsured for longer periods.

Texas workers are less likely to have employment-based health insurance coverage than those in other states. 50 percent of all companies in the US offer health coverage for their employees.  In 2012, Texas ranked 42nd in the nation, with only 45 percent of Texans having employment-based health insurance coverage. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports 63 percent of the uninsured have at least one family member who works either full-time or part-time in 2011 to 2012.


The uninsured are up to four times less likely to have a regular source of health care and are more likely to die from health-related problems. They are much less likely to receive needed medical care, even for symptoms that can have serious health consequences if not treated. About one in four Texans lives at or below the poverty level; for children, it’s nearly one in three.

So just think about that for a second… a large number of the uninsured population in Texas are people that are working, but likely in low-wage jobs.  They are waitstaff at restaurants, taking clothes at the dry cleaners, preparing delicious beverages at a favorite coffee place.  In other words, Texans without insurance are you and me. When they , we, are healthy,  everyone’s risk of health risks are lowered.

But when those Texans are sick and don’t go to get early treatment for fear of cost, everyone is put at greater risk.  And while it’s true that the simple act of having more people covered can never guarantee that people will take responsibility and see a health professional when needed, healthcare expansion would give a critical option to those that are now solely relying on the Emergency Room for their needs.  Early diagnosis saves lives, and is the best way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

As voters make their decision this Fall, healthcare will undoubtedly be a central issue to those Texans that need it.  What people may not realize though?  That same decision could help protect us all, not just those that would be direct beneficiaries of expansion.