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Measuring Health Reform: A Powerful Tool

Colorado has a powerful new tool to help measure how well the Affordable Care Act is – or isn’t – working.

The 2013 Colorado Health Access Survey, which is being released today, is the premier source of information on health insurance coverage, access to health care, and how health care is used in Colorado. It’s managed by the Colorado Health Institute and funded by The Colorado Trust.

Findings from the 2013 survey – affectionately known as the CHAS - give us a detailed picture of Colorado’s changing health landscape.

Even more important, as Colorado and the rest of the nation set about fully implementing the health reform law, data from the 2013 CHAS will provide a baseline to help measure the impact of the Affordable Care Act in Colorado.

CHAS data from the next two surveys in 2015 and 2017 will show how many additional Coloradans obtain health insurance, whether that insurance is affordable, and whether having health insurance translates into better access to health care.

What an important community resource this will be – data that is specific to Colorado and that digs down into the very issues at the heart of health reform.  

Meantime, there are some great updates to the 2013 CHAS that make it useful right now. A number of new questions focus on mental health, oral health and long-term care insurance. With this latest survey, we can now trend information from 2009 and 2011. And, finally, more than 200 tabulated tables are posted online, the most CHAS data ever publicly available. We hope that these tables spur your ideas for even more ways to configure the data to make it useful to you.

And, now, drum roll please. Here are highlights from the 2013 CHAS:

  • One of seven residents - 741,000 Coloradans – does not have health insurance.
  • The percentage of Coloradans without health insurance is 14.3 percent compared to 15.8 percent in 2011 and 13.5 percent in 2009, when the last surveys were fielded. This suggests a slight uptick in health insurance coverage. It shows, however, that an improving economy has yet to translate into a robust increase in the number of Coloradans with health insurance.
  • Employer-sponsored insurance, the backbone of coverage for most Coloradans, has not returned to 2009 levels. That year, 63.7 percent of Coloradans were covered by health insurance obtained through an employer. In 2013, it is 59.0 percent.
  • Four counties in northwest Colorado – Routt, Moffatt, Jackson and Rio Blanco – have the highest percentage of residents without insurance at 24.8 percent. Douglas County has the lowest rate at 5.4 percent.
  • Nearly 8 percent of Coloradans said they needed mental health services or counseling services in the 12 months before the survey, but did not get them, with the most frequently cited reasons relating to cost.
  • The high cost of health care deters many Coloradans from receiving treatment when they need it. Citing cost, about one of five Coloradans (19.3 percent) report foregoing needed dental care, 12.3 percent did not seek a doctor’s care and 11.2 percent report that they did not fill a prescription. 
  • Nearly half (46.7 percent) of Colorado’s uninsured say they have gone without health insurance for more than five years. One of 10 have never had health insurance.

These are great data-informed insights into health care in Colorado. Only available from the CHAS, here at the Colorado Health Institute.