AUSTIN — The percentage of people who lack health insurance in Travis County continues to fall as a wide network of community partners work to increase insurance enrollment and improve access to health care, according to the 2015 CAN Community Dashboard, an annual report that tracks local trends in social, health, educational, and economic well-being.
According to the CAN Dashboard, 20 percent of Travis County residents under age 65 lacked health insurance in 2013, down from more than 24 percent in 2009. Travis County’s uninsured rate was lower than the rate for the state of Texas, but higher than the national average.
Figures are based on 2013 census data, the most recent available. Health insurance rates are expected to improve in 2014 and 2015, with the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Central Health, which works to deliver health care to the underserved and uninsured in Travis County, estimates that 101,000 people selected health care plans during the second year of ACA enrollment.
“This is a 57 percent increase in marketplace enrollment over 2014. We continue to work together using every tool at our disposal to improve health equity by increasing prevention and access to health care coverage for low-income residents in the hope that we can prevent chronic disease and build a model healthy community,” said Christie Garbe, Central Health’s Chief Strategy Officer and member of CAN Board of Directors.
A number of community efforts are focused on increasing access to care, so those with insurance can get the health care they need, when they need it. State-wide 1115 waivers have enabled our community to try creative new ways to deliver health and behavioral health services. One example includes a 5-year demonstration project, led by Central Health, which will work to transform the healthcare delivery system to provide services that are person-centered, coordinated, and better quality at lower costs.
“Thanks to the 1115 Medicaid Transformation Waiver, along with additional investments and partnerships, we are implementing new, community-based programs that address Travis County’s diverse behavioral health needs—including improved crisis services, jail diversion, and integrated care in schools,” said David Evans, CEO of Integral Care and member of CAN Board of Directors, “These programs have already yielded many significant positive impacts that data will reflect over time.”
Addressing mental health is a critical issue for our community. About 1 in 5 Travis County adults reported poor mental health in 2013, a rate that appears to have increased slightly from 2011. The percentage of Texans experiencing poor mental health declined during that same period. Younger adults are more likely than older adults to experience poor mental health in Travis County. In 2013, 32% of people between 18 and 29 experienced poor mental health. People with disabilities are also more likely than those without a disability to experience poor mental health, with 38% reporting poor mental health.
A number of local collaborative projects are working to address behavioral health needs in the Austin area. The Seton Psychiatric Emergency Department opened in 2014 to provide specialized emergency services to meet the needs of people in crisis. Austin Travis County Integral Care and local partners developed the Travis County Children’s Mental Health Plan to improve the wellness of children and youth.
The Community Advancement Network (CAN), a coalition of partners from the government, health, education, business, faith, and economic sectors, tracks four broad community goals over time to identify where attention and action are needed. In addition to health insurance coverage and mental health, the third goal of the CAN Dashboard, “we are healthy,” also measures smoking, obesity, and air quality. The most recent data for these indicators are available online at CANCommunityDashboard.org.
CAN will release the full 2015 Community Dashboard Report on May 20. The Dashboard gauges 17 indicators, including crime, voting, income, food security, housing cost-burdened, health, homelessness, obesity, air quality, high school graduation, college success and unemployment.