Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Poverty and Health Insurance in Colorado

Poverty rises in Colorado while the number of uninsured remains stagnant, according to new Census data


More than 166,000 Coloradans have fallen into poverty in the past five years, according to Census data released Wednesday. But two key programs serving low-income Coloradans have succeeded by providing health care to more Coloradans and preventing the rate of uninsured from rising.

The poverty rate has ballooned from a 9.8 percent average in 2006 and 2007 to an average of 12.7 percent in the two-year period covering 2010 and 2011. During that same time frame, the number of children receiving health care through Medicaid and Children's Health Inusrance Program (CHIP) increased by 126,829.

Still, the Census numbers show that overall the number of uninsured Coloradans remains relatively unchanged and that more work needs to be done to ensure that all Coloradans have access to affordable, quality health care.
"This data makes clear the important role government programs like Medicaid and CHIP are playing in Colorado as they provide a critical safety net for low-income and uninsured Coloradans" said Elisabeth Arenales, health program director at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy. "Fully implementing health care reform provides an opportunity to further reduce the number of uninsured."

The data released by the Census Bureau on Wednesday, the Current Population Survey, sheds light on three key indicators of the lives of low-income Coloradans -- health insurance coverage, poverty rates and income. The data represent two-year rolling averages, which means that in the information below 2010-2011 represents the average for those two calendar years. The federal poverty level in 2011 defined poverty for a family of three as a gross yearly income of $18,530.

Health Insurance
The share of Coloradans without health insurance remained statistically unchanged from data released last year, according to preliminary state Census Bureau figures released today. Roughly 16 percent, or 710,000 Coloradans, did not have health insurance coverage in 2010-2011.

In contrast, national data show a decrease in the number of Americans without health insurance coverage for the first time in four years, largely the result of the Affordable Care Act provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents' private health insurance plans. For the first time in 10 years, the number of Americans with private coverage remained stable.


Other public policies are the primary reason that uninsurance rates have held steady in Colorado. Government investment in health care through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has helped cushion the loss in employer coverage during the recession, particularly for children.  Medicaid covered 13.1 percent of Coloradans under age 65 in 2010-2011, an increase from 8.5 percent in 2006-2007, while employer-based coverage for the same time period declined.  In Colorado, public coverage of children has risen dramatically since 2006-2007 by nearly 10 percent. According to Census, public health programs were covering 126,829 more Colorado kids in 2010-2011 than in 2006-2007.

The positive impact of the Affordable Care Act's young adult provision and the success of Medicaid and CHIP in providing coverage to children illustrate the critical importance of implementing the rest of the health care reform law.

"We have an opportunity to continue to shrink the number of Coloradans without health insurance by expanding Medicaid, successfully launching the Colorado Health Benefit Exchange and fully implementing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act," Arenales said.

The data also showed an increase in the percent of Coloradans living in poverty since the start of the recession. In 2006-2007, 9.8 percent of Coloradans were living below the official poverty line, compared to 12.7 percent in 2010-2011. Preliminary figures for 2010-2011 find that roughly 638,000 Coloradans lived at or below the federal poverty level. That represents an increase of 166,870 Coloradans living in poverty.

"The new data show that many Coloradans are struggling to get by, and we need to step up our efforts to help.  Lawmakers should not make it harder for people to make ends meet by cutting vital supports to lower-income families. We need to promote and fully fund innovative policies and practices that will not only help struggling Coloradans but also boost our economy," said Tracey Stewart, economic security program director of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

The Current Population Survey data also showed income for most Coloradans has stagnated. Adjusted for inflation, median household income in Colorado in 2006-2007 was $64,226 and in 2010-2011 it was $60,381, a statistically insignificant decrease.

These state figures from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey for income, poverty and health insurance in Colorado are preliminary.  On September 20th, the Census Bureau will release more definitive 2011 data as part of the American Community Survey, which is a more in-depth review of poverty and income in the states.

Look for a more detailed analysis of poverty and income in Colorado from the Colorado Center on Law and Policy on September 20th.


Denver Matt said...

It's certainly interesting that public programs have helped stabilize the percentage of uninsured, even as poverty rates increase. At the same time, these programs seem to be turn-key solutions as they don't address the core issue, which is economic stagnation.

McCormick & Murphy, P.C.
100 Fillmore St, 5th Floor
Denver, CO 80206
(720) 545-9090

Cecelia Owens said...

With the health care costs continuing to rise year after year, taxes will need to be raised to fund these programs. Of course, everything the government does is paid for by individual Americans taxpayers.