Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) appeared on Bill Bennett’s radio show yesterday to discuss his “inarguable” accomplishments, as Bennett put it. Specifically, Perry touted his states health care system, saying that it is indeed the “best” in the country:
BENNETT: Thirty seconds on the doctors. You’ve got the best health care in the country, now I think, don’t you? Because of your tort law?
PERRY: We do, yes. I spoke with the doctors yesterday in San Antonio. We’ve got, you know, three of the great health care — well not — three of the great health care regions. When you think about the medical center in Houston, there are more doctors, nurses, researchers go to work there than any other place in the world, every day. You got UT Southwestern up in University of Texas Health Sciences Center, San Antonio, Scott & White. I mean these fabulous health care facilities.
While Texas’ health care system might work well for those who can afford to use its “fabulous” facilities, the state also has the highest rate of uninsured residents of any state in the country. Nearly 26 percent of Texans lack coverage — the national average is just 15.4 percent — meaning there are more uninsured residents in Texas “than there are people in 33 states,” the New York Times noted. Four of Texas’ congressional districts are among the bottom 10 in terms of insurance rates, while thirteen of the state’s districts are in the bottom 30. Houston, which Perry touted as a “great health care region,” has particularly low insurance rates. Harris County, in which Houston sits, has more uninsured residents than any other Texas county, while one in five of its children lack coverage.
One of the chief reasons Texas has such bad insurance rates is that the state has “among the country’s most restrictive Medicaid eligibility thresholds.” Impoverished adults without children are ineligible, for example, while the state has created “burdensome application requirements,” with outmoded computers and inadequate staffing.
Moreover, despite Perry’s strutting, Texas is actually a prime example of why tort reform has no significant impact on health care costs. As Atul Gawande documented in the New Yorker, Texas’ tort reform law hasn’t stopped towns like McAllen from having some of most expensive health care markets in the country.
Perry also likes to distort Texas’ education record to say it’s the best in the country. “We have more kids take the SAT than any other state in the nation. I mean a high percentage of our kids take the SAT,” Perry said in a typical boast earlier this month on CNBC. However, Texas actually has only the 22nd highest SAT participation rate in the country, with 51 percent of the class of 2009 taking the test. And among students who do take the test, “Texas ranks near the bottom in combined SAT scores — 45th out of 50 states.” “To stick with the school metaphor, 51 percent is a failing grade,” PolitiFact noted.
Of course, if Perry followed through on his secession plan, Texas would indeed have the best health care and education in his newly-minted nation.