Español Search

Fewer Young Adults Have Health Insurance: Study Finds That Most Young Adults Want It But Can’t Afford It; Nearly Half of Hispanic Young Adults in Colorado Are Uninsured


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

DENVER, COLO.Young adults aged 18-29 have the highest uninsured rate among any age group in Colorado. Despite the widespread perception that young adults do not buy insurance because they are healthy and believe insurance is unnecessary, most cite cost as the true reason, according to a new report from The Colorado Trust’s 2011 Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS).

“When we attribute the high uninsurance rate among young adults to their lack of interest in having health insurance, we miss the factors behind this phenomenon,” said Ned Calonge, MD, MPH, President and CEO of The Colorado Trust. “Young adults, more than any other age group, have a difficult time accessing employer-based and public health insurance. It limits their access to care and puts them at risk for onerous health care costs that make it difficult to achieve economic self-sufficiency.”

Young Invincibles? Why Young Adults Have Colorado’s Highest Uninsured Rate reports that more than one in four young Coloradans (28.7 percent) are uninsured, up from 21.8 percent in 2008-2009. For Hispanic young adults in Colorado, it is almost half (49.6 percent) who are uninsured.

Only 12 percent of uninsured young adults in Colorado say they are uninsured because they don’t think they need health insurance. They were no more likely to give this reason than uninsured older adults. Instead, they most often gave these three reasons for being uninsured:

  • 77 percent said the cost of health care coverage was too high
  • 79 percent cited losing access to employer-based health insurance (their own or a family member’s)
  • 24 percent said they became ineligible for Medicaid or Child Health Plan Plus.

CHAS data point to clear effects of lack of insurance on access to health care for young adults. Among insured young adults in Colorado, 76 percent report having a usual place where they seek primary medical care, compared to only 54 percent of uninsured young adults in Colorado who have a usual source of care. In addition, 22.1 percent of young adults did not see a doctor due to cost, and almost a third (32.1 percent) did not see a dentist due to cost.

Unemployment and underemployment of young adults limits their access to health insurance. The number of young adults in Colorado who worked at a job that offered health insurance fell from 47 percent in 2008-2009 to only 36 percent in 2011. Of those who were offered health insurance through their employers, only 63.6 percent chose to purchase the coverage.

Young Invincibles, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, suggests several ways to connect young adults with health insurance:

  • Show young adults how health insurance can fit into their budget, even with a low salary
  • Reach young adults at milestones in their lives, such as graduation, when they will soon be faced with decisions about health insurance
  • Present evidence that health insurance can contribute to financial security and better health
  • Involve diverse partners, such as community colleges, nonprofit organizations that serve young adults and health-related organizations, in delivering the message.

The 2011 Colorado Health Access Survey is a program of The Colorado Trust and is administered as a random-sample telephone survey of more than 10,000 Colorado households. The Colorado Health Institute manages the data collection and analysis. The Colorado Trust has committed more than $4.5 million to conduct the CHAS every other year through at least 2017 to provide information needed to help policy, health care, business and community leaders more fully understand health challenges in Colorado.

Please make a note: New CHAS data will be released on November 13, 2013. These data will provide trend information from the baseline survey in 2008-2009, to 2011 and 2013.

To learn more about the CHAS, visit Colorado Health Institute.


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