The 2011 Colorado Health Access Survey shows that the poor economy has made carrying health care coverage increasingly difficult for state residents. Two years ago, when the last survey was conducted, 678,000 residents lacked coverage.
“That’s 151,000 additional Coloradans who are uninsured. That would be as if the entire city of Grand Junction lost health insurance all at once,” said Dr. Ned Calonge, president of The Colorado Trust, which funded the survey. “That’s a remarkable increase and it’s a serious issue.”
In addition, uninsured residents are staying uninsured longer. According to the survey, more than 60 percent of uninsured Coloradans revealed that they’ve been without health care insurance for at least a year, up from 56 percent two years ago.
The number of underinsured residents – those who spend more than 10 percent of their income on health care expenses because their coverage doesn’t adequately cover those costs – has risen from 650,000 to 675,0000. Combined, the number of uninsured and underinsured Coloradans totaled 1.5 million people.
Increasingly typical is Celestia Pratt of Colorado Springs, a self-employed “Jill of all trades.”
“I don’t have any health insurance, said Pratt, who was interviewed at a recent 9Health Fair, where she was getting routine blood tests. I couldn’t afford $700 a month. It’s really expensive as you age.”
The survey found that the leading barrier to gaining sufficient coverage is the high cost of health insurance, with 85 percent of respondents citing cost as a major obstacle. A lack of employer-provided coverage was also a factor, with 41 percent of respondents reporting that a family member was either not offered coverage or was considered ineligible for coverage. The percentage of residents with employer-provided coverage declined from 64 percent to 58 percent over the past two years.
Younger residents and poor populations are more likely to be uninsured than their older and higher-income counterparts. And while the majority of uninsured Coloradans are white, 33 percent of Hispanics are uninsured, although they make up 20 percent of the state’s population.
Lack of insurance varied greatly by region.“A lot of differences have to do with the kinds of employers and jobs available to people throughout the state,” said Michele Lueck, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Institute, which conducted the survey.
The Western Slope and resort communities, home to seasonal jobs and tourism-based businesses, reported the highest percentages of uninsured rates statewide. Rural communities in Northern Colorado and the Eastern Plains also had higher numbers of uninsured residents.
Children aged 0 to 18 were the only group to remain fairly stable in terms of insurance – something Lueck attributed to state efforts to enroll more eligible kids in Medicaid and the Child Health Plus Program.
The survey included more than 10,000 Colorado households, who were interviewed between May 10 and Aug. 14. The Colorado Trust has agreed to fund the survey every other year until 2017.