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March 21, 2000     (512) 463-0300

Task Force on the Uninsured meets in Houston

HOUSTON - The Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Uninsured met in Houston's City Hall Annex. Arlington Senator Chris Harris chairs the task force. The task force was created by Senate Concurrent Resolution 6 during the 76th Legislature, Regular Session, to examine the problem of Texans who lack health insurance, to review demographic trends relating to the uninsured population and to examine other state's programs, laws, and systems which address the lack of affordable health coverage. Members of the committee include Senators David Bernsen of Beaumont, Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso, and Representatives Bob Glaze of Gilmer, Garnet Coleman of Houston, Craig Eiland of Galveston. Public members include Nancy Dickey of College Station, John C. Goodman of Dallas, and Boone Powell of Dallas.

One of every six Americans is uninsured, and the trend is growing as the population grows. Texas ranks in the top five states and often ranks as number one in the nation in the numbers of uninsured citizens. Texas has more than 24% of their citizens who are uninsured, twice the national average of 12-14 %. The Houston/Galveston area and El Paso have the highest number of uninsured with 33 38%, almost triple the national average. In the United States, the typical uninsured person is a young adult with an annual family income of less than $30,000, employed in a small firm or self employed. Over 34% of the uninsured reside in a household whose income is less than $15,000, 28% make $50,000 a year. About 11 million of the uninsured are children under the age of 18. . Eighty percent of uninsured are full time workers or their dependents. Of the 22 million adults who are uninsured, 50% are employed full-time in jobs that do not provide insurance benefits or the available benefits are unaffordable. Out of the 22 million adults who are uninsured in the nation, 56% are Anglo; 22% are Hispanic; and 17% are African-American.

Invited testimony was given in the morning by John Guest on behalf of the Harris County Hospital District, Martha Engel, MD representing the City of Houston Health and Human Services Department, Dan Wilford representing the Memorial/Hermann Healthcare System, Ralph Morris MD representing the Galveston County Health District, Ben Raimer MD representing the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Martin Raber MD representing M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Ernest Gibson III representing Riverside General Hospital, Denise Ingham representing Harris County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority, Paul Handel MD and Michael Speer MD representing the Harris County Medical Society, Gary Shepperd MD representing the Houston Medical Forum, and Benito Juarez representing the Houston Immigrant and Refugee Coalition.

Public testimony was received in the afternoon. The committee recessed to the call of the chair. The next meeting of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Uninsured will be May 10, 2000 in Dallas.

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