Recently, The Colorado Trust released the report gleaned from their 2017 Colorado Health Access Survey. The document traces the history of Coloradan residents and their use of healthcare, ending with an encouraging, definitive statement: “Having health insurance is the new normal for most Coloradans.” The survey found that the insurance rate is currently at 93.5%–nearly unchanged from the state’s all-time high of 93.3% in 2015. For the first time ever, more than five million Coloradans have health insurance.
Learning about the state’s health care history is necessary to appropriately appreciate this latest milestone. The report begins its narrative in 2009, where health reform efforts were gaining traction around the country. In Colorado, leaders had already made changes—they were assessing Colorado hospitals with a fee to fund expanded eligibility for Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+). At that time, around 678,000 Coloradans did not have health insurance—about 13.5%.
That uninsured rate increased to almost 16% in 2011; Colorado was still repairing itself after the Great Recession, and President Barack Obama had just signed the ACA into law. Most ACA provisions went into effect two years later, in 2014, when the uninsured rate dipped to 14.3%. By 2015, the ACA was in full swing, and Colorado saw a dramatic impact—the percentage of Coloradans without health insurance plummeted to 6.7%.
This changing rate has dramatically impacted millions of Coloradans and they ways in which they use healthcare. Take, for example, emergency department use. Having access to an emergency department provides peace of mind, but it can be an expensive place to obtain healthcare—even for insured residents. Though emergency department visits haven’t changed much, non-emergency ED visits have declined significantly. This means Colorado residents now have better access to more affordable care through general practitioners. Additionally, 6.4% of Coloradans go to an urgent care center for their healthcare—double the rate than in 2009. This may also explain the dramatic decrease in emergency department use.
Though Colorado’s healthcare system is far from perfect, the state is making great strides toward affordable and accessible resources. Colorado consistently ranks among the nation’s healthiest states, and we hope to see our residents take advantage of the wonderful systems in place.