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Informing Policy. Advancing Health.

The Price of Staying Healthy

Fifty years ago, the Beatles sang, “I don’t care too much for money, ‘cuz money can’t buy me love.”

While that’s still true, it’s also true that in 2014, money can mean better health. Data from the 2013 Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) show that the more income Coloradans have, the more likely they are to report being healthier, having health insurance and gaining access to health care.

Today, the Colorado Health Institute released the latest in a series of Survey Snapshots based on data from the CHAS.  This brief, A Strong Link: Income and Health - Understanding Poverty’s Role in Well-Being, shows that income is associated with some of Colorado’s greatest health disparities. 

Income is among a range of social determinants – described by the World Health Organization as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age – that affect a person’s health. Social determinants of health should not be taken lightly. Research undertaken by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that social determinants can account for 40 percent of expected health outcomes – the length and quality of life. In fact, social determinants are twice as important as access to clinical health care alone.

The data show that low-income Coloradans – those with incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level – are almost three times more likely to be uninsured than those with incomes above that threshold. Low-income Coloradans also report that their general, mental and oral health is fair or poor – the two lowest options – at rates two to three times higher than those with higher incomes. 

While these disparities show up clearly in 2013 data, state and federal policy changes implemented after this survey was collected are aimed at changing the magnitude of the gaps in health status, health insurance coverage and access to care based on income.  We await the 2015 data to begin assessing their impact.

Until then, it is fair to say that money matters.