About 4,000 residents in Southwest Colorado gain health insurance since Affordable Care Act

Statewide survey finds uninsured rate declining

About 4,000 people in Southwest Colorado have gained health insurance since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2014, a new study found. Enlarge photo

Denver Post file

About 4,000 people in Southwest Colorado have gained health insurance since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2014, a new study found.

About 4,000 people in Southwest Colorado gained health insurance since the Affordable Care Act came into force in 2014, according to a new study released by the Colorado Health Institute.

Joe Hanel, spokesman for the Colorado Health Institute, said a study conducted in 2017 found an estimated 84,000 people carried health insurance in Southwest Colorado, with about 10,000 people still without coverage.

The Southwest Colorado region spans Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma and San Juan counties.

Since 2009, CHI has conducted a statewide survey every two years to garner Coloradans’ feedback on health care coverage and access.

The CHI reached out to 10,000 households throughout Colorado, using a methodology to bring those numbers up to best estimates for statewide numbers. On Tuesday, representatives presented their findings at the Durango Community Recreation Center.

“Not every state does these surveys,” Hanel said. “Just the lucky ones.”

Statewide, the study found the uninsured rate was nearly cut in half since adoption of the ACA, from about 14.3 percent in 2013 to 6.5 percent in 2017. That number did not differ much from the 6.7 percent uninsured rate in 2015, a sign gains have stabilized, Hanel said.

Yet, Southwest Colorado, along with other rural parts of the state, lagged behind. “The further you get from the Front Range,” Hanel said, “the worse the health care cover gets.”

In Southwest Colorado, about 10.6 percent of the population is without health care insurance, the 2017 study determined. Still, that’s an improvement since the ACA went into effect: in 2013, the uninsured rate was 15 percent.

The only other regions with more people uninsured were the northwest (13.1 percent), southeast (11.6 percent) and northeast (10.7 percent). Across the state, almost 80 percent of respondents without health insurance said they didn’t have it because of the cost.

“Affordability remains the No. 1 barrier to people accessing health care,” said Ian Pelto, a research analyst for CHI. “But it’s been that way for the last decade.”

In Colorado, about 5 million people have health insurance, while an estimated 350,000 remain uninsured, the study found. The uptick in enrollment statewide may be attributed to an expansion of Medicaid, as well as expanded opportunities from Connect for Health Colorado through the ACA.

Hanel said also of note is that the percentage of Coloradoans enrolled in the individual marketplace has hovered around 8 percent since 2011, a statistic that defies national rhetoric that the system is collapsing.

Other takeaways from the study include:

About 50 percent of Coloradans have health insurance through their employer, though that number is declining slightly year after year. More people, about 20 percent, are enrolling in Medicaid.Disparity remains among those without health care: People below the poverty level are twice as likely to not have insurance. And among Hispanics, 1 in 10 people are uninsured (though an improvement from 2011, when 1 in 4 did not carry health care).The uninsured rate for children in Colorado is 3 percent, among the best in the country, Hanel said.Respondents reported that the average wait time to see a primary care doctor was 2.4 days. In Southwest Colorado, the wait was about three days. For specialty doctors, the wait was 9.4 days statewide and 10 days in Southwest Colorado.The study found Medicaid was a strength in Colorado. About 90 percent said they were happy with coverage through Medicaid, 80 percent were satisfied with choice of doctors and about 90 percent were satisfied with the cost of care.About 1 in 7 respondents without health care said they did not have it because they were unsure how to obtain coverage. That population, about 50,000, is easily served, Pelto said.About 13.4 percent of people surveyed in Southwest Colorado reported they were in poor health, and 8.3 percent of people in the region said they had poor mental health.jromeo@durangoherald.com

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