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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

The 2008–09 Colorado Household Survey

Where would a researcher or health care policy analyst go to get information about how much Coloradans are spending on out-of-pocket medical expenses? Or, where do uninsured Coloradans go when they need medical care? There are many data sources available to get the percentage (or number) of people in Colorado who are uninsured, but there’s only one source currently available for information on access to care, health care utilization or the cost incurred by Coloradans for health care when they are uninsured—the 2008-09 Colorado Household Survey (COHS).

In November 2008, the COHS was fielded to collect information on the health insurance status of Coloradans but also to learn much more about the demographic characteristics and health-seeking behaviors of people who are adequately insured, uninsured and underinsured. The COHS was sponsored by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (HCPF) with funding from The Colorado Trust in an effort to provide baseline information about health care coverage and access in anticipation of state and national health reforms. Under contract with HCPF, the Colorado Health Institute (CHI) was administrator for the telephone survey of 10,000 randomly selected households in Colorado, including 400 cell-phone only households. The COHS included questions about health insurance coverage, household income and the employment status of all working-age adults in the household, health status, access to health care, health care utilization and out-of-pocket health care expenses. The survey administration was completed in March 2009 providing a three-month window into the health care coverage status of Coloradans.

From the COHS, we have learned that:

  • 64% of Coloradans who are uninsured and employed work for companies with 50 or fewer employees
  • 650,000 (13%) Coloradans who are covered by health insurance spend more than 10% of their annual income on out-of-pocket expenses for medical care, including prescriptions, co-pays, medical equipment, etc.
  • 94% of Coloradans with continuous health insurance coverage (at least 12 months) reported having a usual place to go for health care-related issues; however, only 65% of the chronically uninsured (6 months or more) reported the same level of health care access

The COHS is a rich source of information for researchers, health planners, elected officials and advocacy organizations interested in the health care experience of Coloradans, especially on the eve of implementation of state and national health reforms. Several issue briefs and other publications from the COHS are available on CHI’s website and CHI’s staff is available to answer questions, provide technical assistance and assist individuals in obtaining data files containing COHS data. [digg=]