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Percentage of Coloradans with health insurance unchanged over two years, survey shows

Author: Ernest Luning - September 19, 2017 - Updated: September 19, 2017

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More Coloradans than ever have health insurance, according to a massive biennial survey released Tuesday, although the state continues to see lower rates of coverage outside the Denver metro area.

The Colorado Health Access Survey found the number of state residents without health insurance dipped slightly to 6.5 percent from 6.7 percent in 2015 — the first year the survey reflected full implementation of the Affordable Care Act — and that consistency could be the big news in this year’s survey, its sponsors say.

“It’s a big deal, it means 2015 wasn’t a blip, it wasn’t an anomaly, it wasn’t a one-time thing,” said Joe Hanel, a spokesman for the Colorado Health Institute, which commissioned the survey, in a conference call with reporters. “The coverage expansion that Colorado has had in the last few years seems to have been durable. Those expansions seemed to have been locked in.”

The state’s uninsured rate was cut in half between 2013 and 2015 — mostly due to expanded Medicaid rolls — but despite turmoil in segments of the health insurance market and attempts by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, overall coverage looks like it’s stayed the same in Colorado, Hanel said.

“The individual market appears to be stable, and there’s no sign it’s in a death spiral,” he said.

The Colorado Health Institute has conducted the survey every two years since 2009. It’s primarily funded by the Colorado Trust, a foundation established with the proceeds of the sale of PSL Healthcare Corp.

As in previous years, surveyors contacted more than 10,000 randomly selected Colorado residents — the total was 10,029 this year — using both cell phones and landlines, its organizers said. It was conducted by independent research company Social Science Research Solutions from Feb. 9 to May 21 in both English and Spanish.

The Colorado Health Institute plans to roll out the results of the survey at presentations across the state this week and is making the voluminous data available online in sortable formats at coloradohealthinstitute.org.

In all, the survey found a record 5,040,164 Colorado residents have health coverage this year — up about 100,000 from last year — including employer-provided insurance, plans bought in the individual marketplace, Medicare, Medicaid and other state programs.

Nearly 600,000 more residents have health insurance this year than had it in 2013, the year before the Affordable Care Act took full effect, the survey shows.

But plenty of challenges remain, organizers said, pointing to uneven rates of coverage around the state and roughly one in five residents saying they skipped medical care in the last year because they couldn’t afford it.

Douglas County has the highest percentage of residents with health insurance, at 98.6 percent, leaving just 4,500 residents without coverage — an achievement the report’s authors called “astonishing.”

At the other end of the scale, a group of four counties in northwest Colorado — Moffat, Routt, Rio Blanco and Jackson — had the lowest rate of insured residents, with 86.9 percent.

Arapahoe County showed the biggest drop in uninsured residents since 2015, with the rate falling from 7.1 percent to 3.2 percent — the only statistically significant change for any county or group of counties, organizers said.

El Paso County had a slightly higher rate of uninsured residents than the state as a whole, with 7.5 percent.

About 350,000 Coloradans don’t have coverage, the survey shows. Organizers estimate those without insurance could be among the hardest to reach, with many falling under the poverty line, lacking a high school diploma or being undocumented. At 78.4 percent, the vast majority of respondents said the high cost was a reason they didn’t have health insurance.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.


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