Weld County uninsured numbers drop, but less than statewide numbers | MyWindsorNow.com

Weld County uninsured numbers drop, but less than statewide numbers

James Redmond

The number of Colorado residents without health insurance fell dramatically in the past two years — but not nearly as dramatically in Weld County, according to new information released Tuesday by the Colorado Health Institute.

Weld County still saw a drop in its uninsured population to 8.5 percent in 2015 from 9.3 percent in 2013. However, that less than 1 percentage point drop pales in comparison to the state's drop, which fell to a record low of 6.7 percent of residents without health care from 14.3 percent in the same time frame.

By contrast to the state halving its uninsured population, Weld's small decrease stands out in the 2015 Colorado Health Access Survey.

However, in the larger context, the local numbers look rather good, said Mark Wallace, executive director of the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment. Colorado Health Institute number show only 9.3 percent of Weld residents didn't have insurance in 2013. A year earlier, community health surveys showed Weld 's uninsured population at about 17 percent, Wallace said.

State officials credit Weld's rather modest decline to a drop in the number of people getting their health insurance through work.

"One of the quirks that we saw was that there was a fairly large drop in employer-sponsored insurance from 2013 to 2015," said Joe Hanel, Colorado Health Institute senior communications expert.

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Although the statewide percentage of people on employer-sponsored health insurance dropped from 52.6 percent in 2013 to 50.9 percent in 2015, Weld dropped more. The 2013 survey showed Weld had about 55.1 percent of its residents on employer-sponsored health insurance. That dropped to about 49.1 percent in 2015.

"That's a bigger drop than we saw in the state average," Hanel said. "I'm not quite sure why. I've been kind of speculating that it might be the nature of the private economy up in Weld County. (It's) really agriculture- and energy-driven and has a boom and bust cycle. I'm not sure, that's speculation. But we did see a lot of failure to achieve a lower uninsured rate. That looks like a lack of employer-sponsored insurance throughout the area would allow that."

Weld may have seen a decrease in people insured through employer-sponsored programs, Wallace said.

"It is interesting to look at what has happened in the job market," he said.

Business in the area may have grown in such a way where they started hiring new employees who do not qualify for employer-sponsored health insurance, diluting those numbers more than actually decreasing them, Wallace said.

What they hear about locally are issues with families, self-employed individuals and small business owners trying to navigate the new health care marketplace, he said.

With the new data, the state can look at how they need to allocate resources to help address issues.

"We will be re-looking at our formula or how we fund our partners," said Sue Birch, executive director of the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing. "We'll be reconvening. We just got this information as well, so we'll be thinking about where we need to put some extra resources."

Although the 2015 Colorado Health Access Survey shows Weld has an uninsured population almost 2 percentage points more, Wallace feels the area is in a similar place to the rest of the state. He said he hopes and believes that in time Weld's uninsured population will decrease, but he admits some people will feel they cannot afford coverage and remain uninsured.

"I think we're consistent with the other areas," he said. "My hope is that we'll get more people covered (in the future) though. From a (health care) provider's point of view, it's easier to provide care to someone if they're covered."

By the numbers

12.6 — the percent of underinsured in Weld County, less than the 16.4 percent statewide.

13.4 — the percent of people in Weld County who would choose a community health center for care, more than the 8.1 percent statewide statistic.

24.9 — the percent of people in Weld County who were unable to get a medical appointment as soon as they felt needed, above the statewide statistic of 18.7 percent.

70.9 — the percent of people in Weld County concerned with the cost of mental health care, compared to 57.3 percent statewide.

62.8 — the percent of people in Weld County who felt uncomfortable talking with a health professional about personal problems, higher than the 40.2 percent statewide.

Source: 2015 Colorado Health Access Survey.

Record low uninsured in Colorado

Colorado’s uninsured rate has dropped to a record low of 6.7 percent, according to new data from the 2015 Colorado Health Access Survey.

That leaves just 353,000 Coloradans without health insurance.

Findings from the survey, released Tuesday, reveal that the state’s uninsured rate has fallen by more than half since 2013, when it stood at 14.3 percent — or 741,000 people without health insurance.

Four years ago, in 2011, Colorado’s uninsured rate stood at a high of 15.8 percent with 829,000 without health insurance, according to a release from the Colorado Health Institute.

Nearly 5 million Coloradans – 93.3 percent – now have health insurance.

The 2015 CHAS provides an in-depth look at impact of the Affordable Care Act in Colorado. The new findings track the full implementation of the health reform law and covering two open enrollment periods.

Colorado has embraced health reform — opting to expand Medicaid eligibility, creating a state-based insurance marketplace and hosting an insurance co-op — making the CHAS data especially relevant as an early case study of ACA effectiveness.

The CHAS is funded by the Colorado Trust and administered by the Colorado Health Institute.

The 2015 CHAS was a telephone survey of 10,136 randomly-selected households in Colorado, both landlines and cell phones, administered between March 2 and June 26. The margin of error for the uninsured rate of 6.7 percent is plus or minus .93 points, a range from 5.8 percent to 7.6 percent.

Detailed information, including data broken down by region and topic area, is available at http://www.coloradohealthinstitute.org.