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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

Curious About the Uninsurance Rate in Your Neighborhood?

Christmas came a little early for the data nerds here at the Colorado Health Institute with Tuesday’s release of new estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS). For the first time, the Census Bureau’s data includes five-year health insurance coverage estimates for areas as small as Census tracts.

The coverage data can be broken down by other data such as age, sex, employment status, educational attainment, household income, race and ethnicity. Type of insurance coverage is broken down by direct-purchase insurance, employer-based insurance, Medicaid/means-tested public coverage, Medicare, private health insurance, Tricare/military health and Veterans Affairs health care. Insurance type can be looked at by age and sex.

With this new release, we are now able to look at coverage rates with a closer lens than in the past. Previously, health insurance coverage data was available down to geographic areas as small as counties and large urban areas.

Take Denver County, where the ACS estimates that 18.3 percent of residents were uninsured between 2008 and 2012. The new ACS data allows us to see the variation among neighborhoods. For example, the Five Points neighborhood saw an average uninsured rate of 17.0 percent for those five years. Across town, the Washington Park neighborhood had an uninsured rate of 9.6 percent during the same time period.

Here is a sampling of other ACS health insurance stats from around the state:

  • The average percentage of residents without health insurance between 2008 and 2012:
    • Alamosa – 15.1 percent
    • Fort Collins – 11.1 percent
    • Grand Junction – 16.0 percent
    • Las Animas – 14.6 percent
    • Pueblo – 17.2 percent
    • Steamboat Springs – 15.4 percent
    • Sterling – 23.0 percent
    • Telluride – 21.5 percent
  • In Las Animas, 58.7 percent of the town’s young residents between the ages of 19 and 25 went without health insurance.

    The ACS is a great complement to the Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS). While the ACS can report health insurance coverage data on the Census tract and ZIP Code level, the CHAS asks questions about health care access and utilization that get at things like barriers to care, underinsurance and problems caused by high medical bills. By using data from both the ACS and the CHAS, a detailed picture of Colorado’s health landscape becomes clearer. (The CHAS is administered by the Colorado Health Institute and funded by The Colorado Trust.)

    It should be noted that neighborhood level data is going to be more readily available in urban areas rather than communities with small populations because Census tracts can be quite large in sparsely populated areas.

    The Colorado Health Institute will be analyzing this new ACS data in the coming year. We’d love to hear from you about data that would be helpful with your work. Please don’t hesitate to contact our senior data analyst, Rebecca Crepin. We’ll be sure to keep you apprised of our findings.

    Until then, happy number crunching!