Who will qualify under Colorado's Medicaid expansions?

Meet Marty. Marty is a 58-year-old Denverite with an unparalleled love for the Broncos. A former construction worker, he can’t work anymore due to a disability and spends most of his nights homeless. Marty’s diabetes and hypertension are controlled through visits to Denver Health, but his Colorado Indigent Care Program card doesn’t begin to cover the costs of his medication or doctor visits.

When I began looking at who would benefit from Colorado’s recent Medicaid expansions, Marty was the picture in my head — a low-income “adult without dependent children.”

At CHI, we – like many other Coloradans – wanted to learn more about these adults. How many of them are there? What do they look like? What are their health needs?

While we aren’t able to answer the last question, we crunched some numbers from the 2009 American Community Survey to answer the first two. A few of our findings:

  • About 158,000 adults without dependent children will become eligible for Medicaid under the Colorado Health Care Affordability Act (HB 09-1293). It’s important to note that not all of them will become eligible at once; in fact, we expect a gradual phase-in of the program over the next two years, starting in early 2012.
  • These uninsured adults tend to be much younger than Colorado adults overall. In fact, nearly two-thirds are between the ages of 19 and 35 – typically a fairly healthy age group.
  • About 40% of Colorado adults without dependent children are employed, typically part time.
  • One-third, or about 53,000, of them have incomes below 10% of the federal poverty level, about $1,000 a year for a single person.

So, it turns out that many uninsured adults without dependent children don’t look like Marty at all. If you’re interested in learning more about this population, check out a few of the new publications CHI released this week.

The first is a one-page fact sheet aimed at those looking for a snapshot of what we know about these uninsured adults from the 30,000-foot level. The second is an eight-page data supplement, which provides county-level estimates of both adults without dependent children and parents who are eligible for Medicaid but not enrolled. Finally, for the die-hard data nerds, we’ll soon post a methodology document that includes all of the assumptions and methods we used to create these estimates.

Emily King is a research analyst at CHI.