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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

Let the (Health Insurance) Estimates Begin.

Editor's note: A CHI publication on the new state level findings can be found here.

It’s the season for new estimates of the uninsured in Colorado and across the nation.

The first revised numbers arrived this morning, courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau and its Current Population Survey’s annual Social and Economic Supplement (CPS ASEC). On Friday, we’ll be hearing from Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Jonathan Gruber, who’s providing estimates for the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange, and then there will be the American Community Survey. Finally, down the road there will be new information on health insurance coverage from the 2010-11 Colorado Health Access Survey, sponsored by The Colorado Trust.

All of these different data sources will no doubt produce different numbers, primarily because each uses a different methodology and focuses on the data and time frames in a different way. Still, together they will help to paint a picture of Colorado’s health insurance landscape.

With that in mind, today’s CPS numbers estimate that 13 percent of all Coloradans did not have health insurance in calendar year 2010. That’s down from 14.5 percent without health insurance in 2009. And the two-year average for 2009-10, which may be a better indication, fell to 13.8 percent from 15.7 percent in 2007-08, a statistically significant drop of 1.9 percentage points.

In fact, Colorado was the only state over that time period to record a statistically-significant decline in the number of people without health insurance.

Nationally, about 16.3 percent of people in the country were without health insurance, which was not statistically different from the 16.1 percent rate in 2009.

It will take in-depth analysis, along with a look at the trends provided by all of the other estimates, to determine the likely reasons behind Colorado’s performance on health care coverage. Some economic fall-out may be present in the fact that the percentage of Coloradans covered by employment-based insurance dropped to 58.4 percent in 2010 from 59.5 percent in 2009. Also, the percentage of people covered by government insurance, including Medicaid, Medicare and military, increased nearly two percentage points, to 27.8 percent from 26 percent. As of July, the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing reported 591,843 clients enrolled in Medicaid and 65,537 clients enrolled in Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+).

Here is a link to the Census Bureau’s summary of its findings, which are based on weighted population samplings of interviews conducted over three months earlier this year.