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By W. Gardner Selby January 29, 2010

National Democrats say Gov. Perry has watched over many uninsured, highest home insurance rates and skyrocketing college tuition

It’s no surprise when Democrats criticize the Republican governor of Texas.

For instance, Democratic National Committee spokesman Ricardo Ramirez reacted to Gov. Rick Perry’s recent criticism of President Obama by saying Perry had himself to blame for problems in Texas. Ramirez elaborated in a Jan. 20 press release: "Under (Perry’s) watch as governor, over 6 million Texans have no health care coverage, including 1 million children, homeowners suffer from the highest insurance rates in the country and college tuition has skyrocketed 136 percent from 2003 to 2008."

Did Ramirez's punches hit home? We revisited his left-right, left-right combination.

Ramirez and Stephanie Goodman, spokeswoman for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, each pointed us to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of U.S. Census data suggesting that in 2008, 6,023,000 Texans lacked health insurance—placing the state second only to California, which had more than 6.7 million residents lacking coverage.

More than 1.4 million Texas children were uninsured in 2008, the foundation estimates. The state had the most uninsured children in the nation that year; California ran second with more than 1.1 million uninsured children.

The Democratic spokesman didn’t forward evidence for his next jab, that Texans pay the nation’s highest home insurance rates.

Jerry Hagins, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Insurance, said homeowners' insurance costs more in Texas because the state is exposed to severe weather in the form of hurricanes and tornadoes and hail. "Texas is high (in its rates) and will always be high," Hagins said. "We don’t want to sugar-coat that."

Indeed, the state's rates often top those of other states, as compiled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. In its latest report, based on 2007 data, the rates for Texas were second only to those in Florida.

In general, home insurance rates historically run highest in Texas, Florida and Louisiana because they’re big states with vast coastal exposures, said Michael Barry, spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, a New York group funded by the insurance industry. "Homeowner insurance prices in these states reflect the risks of losses there," Barry said.

Barry suggested Texas may rise to No. 1 in the next annual compilation of rates when the data from 2008 -- the year Hurricane Ike slammed Texas -- is absorbed.

One wrinkle: The NAIC and Texas insurance department caution against comparing the Texas statistics to those from other states--partly because fewer Texas homeowners carry the comprehensive coverage highlighted in the compilation and partly because calculations for some states, such as Florida and Louisiana, don't take into account the rates paid on policies from state-guided providers of last resort. Those providers offer insurance coverage when it's not available from private insurers.

By its own calculations — which differ from the national report — the Texas department found that homeowners here don't necessarily fare worse than residents of some other states. The average annual Texas premium in 2007 was $1,251--less than the $1,401 average premium in Louisiana and $1,560 in Florida (though the Florida average excludes policies written by the state's insurer of last resort).

What about Ramirez’s last punch, on college tuition?

Ramirez cited a state overview stating that tuition set by public college and university boards increased 136 percent on average from fall 2003 to fall 2008.

But the same analysis states that total tuition, meaning board-set tuition levels added to baseline amounts set by lawmakers, increased 69 percent on average. Separately, the Austin American-Statesman’s Ralph K.M. Haurwitz, who covers higher education, has tapped state figures to conclude that average tuition and mandatory fees — every student faces such fees — at the state’s public universities climbed 86 percent, to $6,300 a year, by fall 2008.

All in all, the Democratic spokesman landed his health-insurance blows. But he slipped when he claimed Texas currently has the nation's highest home insurance rates and overshot on changes in tuition.

We rate Ramirez’s statement Half True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Austin American-Statesman, "Tuition regulation measures die," June 2, 2009

E-mail, Ricardo A. Ramirez, regional press secretary, Democratic National Committee, "While Perry Plays Political Games, Texans Pay the Price for His Failed Leadership," Jan. 20, 2010

E-mails, Stephanie Goodman, director of communications, Texas Health and Human Services Commission, Jan. 25, 2010

E-mails, Ricardo A. Ramirez, regional press secretary, Democratic National Committee, Jan. 25, 2010

Kaiser Family Foundation, "Health Insurance Coverage of the Total Population, states (2007-2008), U.S. (2008)" and "Health Insurance Coverage of Children 0-18, states (2007-2008), U.S. (2008)," accessed Jan. 25, 2010

National Association of Insurance Commissioners, "Caveats Regarding the Use of Average Premium Data for Comparisons," and "2007 Homeowners Insurance Report, Summary Document," Dec. 29, 2009

Texas Department of Insurance, "Comparison of Average Premiums in Various States and Countrywide," provided Jan. 25, 2010

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, "Overview, Tuition Deregulation," accessed Jan. 25, 2010

Interviews, Jerry Hagins, public information officer, Texas Department of Insurance, Jan. 25 and 27, 2010

Interview, Andy Kesling, assistant director of communications, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Jan. 25, 2010

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National Democrats say Gov. Perry has watched over many uninsured, highest home insurance rates and skyrocketing college tuition

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