Perry’s Texas Had Highest Uninsured Rate, Census Data Show

Texans under Governor Rick Perry were more likely to lack health insurance than residents of any other state in 2009, U.S. census data released today show.

The survey found that 26.3 percent of people under age 65 in the state lacked insurance, 1.4 percentage points higher than second-ranked Florida.

Perry, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, was criticized for his health policies by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney during a debate on Oct. 11 sponsored by Bloomberg News and the Washington Post. Massachusetts, where Romney enacted a law in 2006 requiring most residents to obtain insurance, had the nation’s lowest rate of uninsured residents at 4.9 percent, the census found.

“You have a million kids uninsured in Texas,” Romney told Perry, in response to a question from Perry about the Massachusetts law. “Under President Bush, the percentage uninsured went down. Under your leadership, it’s gone up.”

Texas had 1.2 million children without insurance, more than any other state, the data show. The percentage of Texans lacking insurance has increased by 2.2 points since Perry took office in 2000, according to separate, historical census data.

Perry didn’t respond during the debate, according to a transcript. A spokesman for his campaign, Mark Miner, didn’t reply to an e-mail and a phone message seeking comment. A Romney spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho, didn’t immediately comment in an e- mail.

The census reported figures on health insurance coverage for U.S. counties. Eight of the 10 counties with the highest percentage of uninsured people were in Texas, led by Hudspeth County in West Texas, at the Mexican border, where 42.8 percent of residents lack coverage.

About 80 percent of the rural county’s 3,476 residents were Hispanic or Latino, according to the most recent census figures, and 30 percent were beneath the poverty level.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Wayne in Washington at awayne3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Adriel Bettelheim at abettelheim@bloomberg.net

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