AUSTIN, Texas -- For the first time in nearly a decade, the number of kids without health insurance in the U.S. has increased and Texas, once again, has the largest share.
That's according to a new report by Georgetown's Center for Children and Families. The report found that one in five uninsured children in the U.S. live in Texas.
Census Bureau data shows nearly 10.7 percent of children lacked health insurance in the state in 2017. That's a jump from about 9.8 percent the previous year, according to the report.
Experts say the newly uninsured children are clustered in states that did not expand Medicaid, among a combination of other factors.
Expanding Medicaid has been a non-starter in the Republican-led Texas Legislature. Leaders have said the future costs to the state are not worth it. But Republican Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, said there’s not a blanket opposition to Medicaid expansion.
“It’s a blanket opposition to Medicaid expansion under Obamacare,” Rep. Leach said. “But there is no question that the news that came out today, these numbers are alarming.”
Leach said the state should prioritize reducing the uninsured rate. The question is how the state gets there.
“What I believe very strongly in is we need to pursue free market solutions that provides more competition, that opens our markets up, that actually brings the cost of health care down,” he said. “All options should be on the table.”
Leach said it should be debated next session. But he said the top issue will be public education linked to property tax reform.
“There seems to be broad consensus, strong consensus, that we do need to pump substantial new funds into public education and just as importantly, not just saying that we’re putting money into education, but that it’s getting to the right places,” he said.
Click the video link above to watch the full interview with Rep. Leach, including his take on what a Speaker Dennis Bonnen would mean for the Texas House.