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Tracking Inequality: Income, Insurance and Access to Care

Coloradans earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) comprise 44.6 percent of the population, but 70.0 percent of the uninsured.
Date last upated: January 31, 2014

President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address on Tuesday night covered a range of topics, from the economy to education, energy to immigration.

A main theme? Inequality.

 “Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better,” Obama said. “But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened.”

Colorado’s economy has been improving in recent years. The 2013 Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) offers revealing data about how income of Colorado residents relates to their health insurance coverage, access to health care and use of health care.

As expected, lower-income Coloradans are more likely to be uninsured than those in higher-income brackets. Coloradans earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) comprise 44.6 percent of the population, but 70.0 percent of the uninsured.

In terms of access, we know that people who have a usual source of care tend to have better access to timely health care. The CHAS reveals that low-income Coloradans report having no usual source of care more often than those with higher incomes. In 2013, 77.3 percent of Coloradans at or below 100 percent FPL reported having a usual source of care. This was about ten points lower than those living at over 400 percent FPL (89.0 percent).

CHAS results in the health care utilization category also showed evidence of income disparities. While 86.5 percent of Coloradans in the 400 percent FPL or over group reported visiting a health care facility in the 12 months prior to the survey, 68.6 percent of those living at or below 100 percent FPL reported that they had made a health care visit.

The CHAS will be an important resource to measure whether implementation of the Affordable Care Act achieves its goal of narrowing the inequality gap by ensuring that more people have insurance, regardless of their income level. It is scheduled to be fielded next in 2015.