Baptism by Excel

One of the first questions that Allie Morgan, CHI’s Legislative Director and Policy Analyst, asked me when I interviewed here was, “How confident are you with Excel?” I sheepishly admitted that Excel was not exactly my strong suit.

“Don’t worry,” Allie said, “you’ll learn fast!”

Sure enough, my first project at CHI exposed me to more spreadsheets, tables and lists than I had seen in my lifetime. Zoe Wohlgenant, a CHI intern this summer, and I were assigned to update part of the Data Repository on CHI’s website, which was far more extensive than I had ever imagined.

The Data Repository includes a map with all 64 Colorado counties. You can roll over a county to get a pop-up of basic county-level health information that includes population, household income, health insurance status and Medicaid and CHP+ enrollment. By clicking on the county, you also get a detailed spreadsheet with a wealth of demographic, health coverage and workforce data.

In case you don’t have the patience to look at the 50-plus spreadsheets that Zoe and I updated, here are three highlights from our work.

A Surge in Medicaid Enrollment
Between December 2013 and December 2015, the number of Medicaid enrollees in Colorado increased by 525,000. This 68 percent jump followed the January 2014 expansion of Medicaid eligibility to adults without dependent children. The expansion population also includes Coloradans who were eligible under pre-expansion criteria, but hadn’t yet signed up for Medicaid. Just 13 percent of Coloradans were Medicaid members in 2013. More than one of five Coloradans are insured by Medicaid today.

A Decline in the Indigent Care Program
The Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP) provides some discounted health care services to low-income Coloradans and families at participating providers. The 2014 expansion allowed many CICP members to switch to the more comprehensive coverage provided by Medicaid. As a result, CICP use decreased by 60 percent, from 465,000 in FY 2013-14 to 186,000 in FY 2014-2015.

Social Determinants of Health
More good news in the job market – unemployment in Colorado hit a 16-year low last year at 3.9 percent, and the poverty rate decreased slightly as well. Social and economic factors are among the conditions that influence health. For example, unemployment and poverty greatly affect a person’s access to care and their mental health. That’s why CHI has a section on population demographics, which you can check out here.

There are scores of other insights available on the CHI website. If you are interested in learning more about your regional health profiles check out the Data Repository. If you’re a visual learner, you can visit CHI’s new series Mapping Data A to Z.

Ian Pelto, this year’s Public Interest Fellow, graduated from Colorado College in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in international political economy and a minor in biochemistry.