Expand Health Coverage - Community Insight - The Colorado Trust

Dede de Percin is Executive Director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to expanding access to barrier-free, quality health care that is affordable to all.


By Dede De Percin

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who need access to health care right now, and those who will need it eventually. We are overdue for a substantial, comprehensive discussion on health care reform, and the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI), in partnership with our members and partners, is working to ensure that inclusive dialogues take place throughout our state.

Nearly one in three Coloradans younger than 65 went without health insurance in part of 2007 or 2008, a troubling increase of more than 2%. Colorado families are being squeezed between rising health care expenses (premiums, deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket costs) and falling incomes. Health care premiums rose nearly five times faster than median earnings between 2000 and 2007. The number of uninsured is rising as the sagging economy shows no sign of rapid recovery. Furthermore, fiscal and budgeting restraints unique to Colorado exacerbate our economic challenges and keep us from collecting and spending revenues in ways that are smart, strategic and best for the state.

Going without health insurance means insecurity. When you are not well, how can you succeed in anything? Performance in school, in the workplace, in taking care of family, in contributing to community are all thrown into jeopardy without health.

Everyone should have access to health care that is appropriate, affordable and accessible – in the most profound sense of those words. Increasingly, consumers and patients are using their voices, their experiences and their power to help create solutions to our health care crisis.

Health care is singularly intimate: people experience barriers to access in very personal, disparate ways. This can be a challenge to empowering consumer advocates. A person may dispute a bill with a hospital or the quality of care from a provider. But many people don't generalize their individual experience to the larger, underlying failure of the health care system.

In fact, we don't have a health care system, rather we have many disparate, discrete, disorganized pieces. We have different coverage systems. There are separate health care programs for veterans, for the young, for seniors and for those with disabilities. There are public insurance programs, such as Medicaid and CHP+. There is access to care for the uninsured, through the Colorado Indigent Care Program and community clinics. There is small group insurance regulated by the state, and large group insurance governed by federal laws. There is the individual market and CoverColorado, our high-risk pool that provides insurance to eligible Coloradans who are unable to get private coverage due to a pre-existing condition.