How Lack of Insurance Raised East Texas Diabetes Rates Above National Average

Risk factors such as obesity, poor diet and lack of physical activity can contribute to diabetes, but recently investigation Public Health Watch, a nonprofit arm, found another risk factor in East Texas, where some counties have diabetes rates higher than the national average.

KERA’s Sam Baker spoke with co-author Kim Krisberg about this. He covers health care access and the consequences of being uninsured for Public Health Watch, a nonprofit, investigative news organization based in Austin.

The biggest thing we found was that because Texas also has a very high uninsured rate, the ability of people with diabetes to get the care they need to manage it so the disease doesn’t progress to more severe outcomes.

Lack of access to care is a barrier, especially for poor Texans living with diabetes, who are trying to manage their disease.

We are talking about people with diabetes. What about people who don’t know they have it?

Yeah, well, access to care also affects the population because studies have shown that if you have health insurance, you’re more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, but you’re also more likely to be diagnosed with prediabetes, which is really important. is The sooner you can catch it, manage it, and change your behavior, the better your results will be.

Your article mentions several counties in this predicament.

In Smith County, where Tyler is located, 11.8% of adults age 20 and older were diagnosed with diabetes as of 2020.

Angelina County, where Lufkin is located, 14.5%.

Sabina County, which borders Louisiana, had a rate of 12.4%.

These are all rates that are higher than the national average.

Is the problem more widespread than that in East Texas?

Definitely. I mean, it has a lot of rural communities, and rural areas tend to have historically high uninsured rates and more poverty, and that all comes together to make it especially difficult for someone living with diabetes.

Although for more people from Texas accessing Medicaid, what can be done about this problem? What are people in these areas doing to help people with diabetes?

Many local health departments in these areas have diabetes education programs, so people can go and learn more about diet and exercise and learn how to manage their disease at home. And studies have shown that diabetes education is really effective in helping people manage the disease.

But it’s about who can benefit from diabetes education. Sometimes you can find free classes through your local health department. Sometimes safety net clinics will have diabetes education resources that you can access.

But again, usually people who have health insurance may have the easiest time accessing these resources.

How much of that type of help is available in these areas?

There are a number of federally qualified safety net clinics around Texas that accept anyone regardless of their insurance status. So there are a number of options where uninsured people can get help and care for their diabetes.

However, for many of these patients, doctors told us that having health insurance would still be better because it would mean they would likely be able to access health services much earlier, rather than waiting until they actually feel sick to come to the clinic. :

If you have health insurance, you are more likely to go to get that preventive care. And having health insurance will help them access the full range of diabetes medications and prescriptions, including the newest ones on the market that seem to be quite effective.

And when you don’t have health insurance, you’re again dependent on what you can get either at very low cost or through free clinics, such as free insulin and other diabetes medications. But you don’t necessarily have access to the full range of diabetes treatments on the market today.


Slow killer. East Texans are diagnosed with diabetes at a higher rate than the national average

CDC: Texas Diabetes Profile

State diabetes plan

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