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Does Where You Live Affect Your Health Care?

Where a person lives in Colorado may determine how easily he or she can get medical and dental care.

A new Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) brief delves into how barriers to care differ across Colorado by comparing 21 Health Statistic Regions (HSRs). It is titled Does Where You Live Affect Your Health Care? To determine differences, we looked at eight different indicators that measure barriers to care and compared the regional averages to the state average.

The findings suggest that some Coloradans report having a tougher time getting care than others, depending on where they live. Douglas County, for example, had no indicators that were worse than the state average. Other regions, such as Adams County, Arapahoe County and Southwest Colorado had six or more indicators that were worse than the state average.

What accounts for the regional disparities? The reasons are complex. Factors such as geography, poverty and demographic characteristics are interconnected.  Wealth generally plays a part in which regions report more barriers to care than others. Douglas County is not just the wealthiest county in the state, but one of the wealthiest in the country, so it isn’t surprising that barriers to care are not reported as frequently.

Barriers tend to follow a similar geographic pattern as race and ethnicity. Regions with a greater proportion of people of color – including those who identify as Hispanic, black, Asian American or American Indian – report barriers more frequently than the state average.

The findings not only underscore the importance of understanding the factors that contribute to barriers to care, but also the approaches aimed to address them. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) aims to improve accessibility to care by requiring insurance plans to cover a core set of benefits. Some providers are making house calls as an alternative to emergency department treatment. And telehealth programs are more local and strive to provide quality care to individuals in rural communities who may not have readily available primary care providers.

CHI recently released the Access to Care Index which takes a detailed look at each of the 21 regions to help communities across Colorado better understand access to care challenges as well as measure the impact of the ACA.

In just a few months, the 2015 CHAS will be released and will give us some insight on how well these programs are doing on preventing barriers to care. The Colorado Health Institute will be sure to keep you updated.