06/09/10 – In Colorado, Underinsured Are Nearly Equal to the Number of Uninsuredby Irene M. Ibarra
President and CEO, The Colorado Trust
Two steps in the right direction have been taken to cover more of Colorado's uninsured population, yet among the many questions about the implementation of health reform is the extent to which the adequacy of coverage will be addressed.
The passage of the Colorado Healthcare Affordability Act (HB 09-1293) last year and national health reform legislation this year promised to cover between 500,000 and 600,000 of Colorado's approximately 700,000 uninsured residents. Unfortunately, Colorado also has a nearly equal number of people who are underinsured whose potential benefits under HB 1293 and federal reform are not as clearly known.
A new Issue Brief from The Colorado Trust, The Magnitude of Underinsurance in Colorado, draws on data from the 2008-2009 Colorado Household Survey (COHS)* showing that 650,000 Coloradans are underinsured. This means that public or private health insurance coverage does not cover the costs of medically necessary services relative to family income, resulting in out-of-pocket expenses that exceed an insured individual's ability to pay. People who are underinsured are more likely than those with adequate coverage to forego a physician visit or not to fill a prescription. When they do receive health care services, many underinsured people have a difficult time paying their medical bills. The underinsured are also less likely to have a usual source of care – an important measure of health and well-being. In many respects, underinsurance is akin to uninsurance.
One of the research findings is the high proportion of Colorado adults age 65 and older who are underinsured – over 20%. It is assumed that Medicare provides comprehensive coverage for this population; however, these data show that despite nearly universal coverage under Medicare, this age group represents the highest rate of underinsurance among Coloradans.
The majority of underinsured Coloradans is working-age adults (19 to 64). This group has private insurance, but they also have relatively low incomes. In other words, having an insurance card does not guarantee access to needed health care services.
The data from this extensive survey of 10,000 Colorado households show that nearly 39% of the state's population face significant financial barriers to getting the health care they need. It is important to understand what it means to be underinsured and the implications with regard to health access.
*The COHS represents the voices of 10,000 Colorado households, and was conducted to help determine factors that contribute to the health of our population. With support from The Colorado Trust, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing conducted the survey, with the Colorado Health Institute serving as the survey administrator.TOP Comments (0)