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Eighty-five Percent of Uninsured Coloradans Cite Cost as the Reason for Not Purchasing Health Insurance


Media Contact:  Julian Kesner, Director of Communications
303-539-3147; [email protected]

DENVER, COLO.—Affordability is the primary reason that uninsured Coloradans did not buy health insurance, according to the 2011 Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS). Released today, The Affordability of Health Insurance in Colorado issue brief examines in-depth why Coloradans are uninsured, including their ability and willingness to pay for health insurance, how much they believe they can afford and what they now pay for out-of-pocket expenses. The brief also addresses the consequences of being uninsured in Colorado.

Initial findings from the 2011 CHAS were released in November 2011 and showed that nearly one-third of Coloradans – more than 1.5 million people – have either no health care coverage at all or their health insurance does not adequately cover the costs of medically necessary services relative to family income. The Affordability of Health Insurance in Colorado is the first in-depth analysis of CHAS data on a specific topic.

“These data tell us that people who cannot afford health insurance in Colorado are often employed, and are even likely to be offered coverage through their employer. The reality that working Coloradans simply can no longer afford health insurance or health care is a wake-up call that we all need to pay attention to,” said Ned Calonge, MD, President and CEO of The Colorado Trust, a statewide grantmaking foundation dedicated to achieving access to health for all Coloradans. “Our ability to achieve affordable health insurance and care, through the Affordable Care Act and other means, depends in large part on understanding this complex and subjective issue.”

Highlights of Affordability Findings from the 2011 CHAS:

  • Paying even a small amount for health insurance will be a hardship for some Coloradans – One in five uninsured Coloradans said they were unable to pay anything for health insurance. Of those who thought they could pay something, one in 10 said they were able and willing to pay, at most, between $1 and $25 a month.
  • Employment doesn’t guarantee health insurance – Nearly 58% of uninsured Coloradans have jobs, with 45% working for others and 13% self-employed. Of that group of the working uninsured, more than half said they were offered insurance by their employer but turned it down due to cost. 163,000 fewer working Coloradans had employer-sponsored insurance in 2011 than in 2009 – this is more than the combined number of employees working for the 25 largest employers in our state.
  • Affordability directly influences the health of the one in six Coloradans who are without health insurance today – Because of cost, nearly half of Colorado’s uninsured put off seeing a dentist for needed care; 40% put off seeing a doctor for needed care; and nearly 25% didn’t buy prescribed medications. A quarter of uninsured Coloradans described their health status as fair or poor (the lowest rankings) compared with 10% of Coloradans who are adequately insured. These actions have potentially negative health consequences, as well as economic societal impacts. Nearly one-third of Colorado’s uninsured said they usually sought health care from an emergency room or urgent care facility – more expensive options for the provision of care than timely preventive care from a “usual source of care,” such as a primary care provider.
  • The willingness and ability of individuals to pay for health insurance coverage is complicated and subjective – A perceived ability or willingness to pay for health insurance does not necessarily correlate with an individual’s income level. For example, while there doesn’t seem to be a predictable pattern to those who say they can afford to pay something for health insurance compared to those who say they cannot pay anything for coverage, it is interesting to note that about 75% of the lowest-income uninsured Coloradans said they could afford to pay something for health insurance.

The importance of CHAS findings is highlighted by research showing people without health insurance are less likely to receive preventive care, are frequently diagnosed when their diseases are more advanced, tend to receive less therapeutic care and are more likely to die prematurely than individuals with insurance.

CHAS is an extensive survey of health care coverage, access and utilization in Colorado. A program of The Colorado Trust, this survey is administered every other year via a random sample telephone survey of more than 10,000 households across the state – providing detailed information that is representative of the five million-plus Coloradans. The Colorado Health Institute (CHI) manages the data collection and analysis of the CHAS. CHI is an independent nonprofit organization that serves as an impartial source for health data and policy analysis. The baseline survey, conducted in 2008-2009 was also funded by The Colorado Trust, and was managed by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, with support from CHI.

The Colorado Trust has committed more than $4.5 million to conduct the Colorado Health Access Survey every other year through at least 2017 to provide critical information to help policy, health care, business and community leaders more fully understand health challenges in the state.

Additional in-depth analyses of CHAS data on will be made available periodically throughout 2012-2013. Data from the next CHAS will be reported after the survey is repeated in 2013. To learn more, visit Colorado Health Institute.

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Learn about the health equity issues affecting Coloradans at Collective Colorado, a publication of The Colorado Trust.