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Insight & Analysis / Black Coloradans Lag in Insurance, Health

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that in 1966.

Data from the Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) tell us that some of the inequalities that Dr. King spoke of still exist for a number of black Coloradans nearly 50 years later. Health outcomes, insurance coverage and access to medical care differ between non-Hispanic blacks and other racial and ethnic groups in Colorado, according to the CHAS.

In 2013, 16.7 percent of non-Hispanic blacks reported excellent general health. This was about half the rate of excellent health reported by both non-Hispanic whites (34.9 percent) and Hispanics (30.9 percent).

And the health trend has not been going in the right direction for this population. Looking back to the first year of the survey in 2009, 30.2 percent of non-Hispanic blacks reported excellent health. This important indicator has fallen about 13 percentage points in four years – a significant difference. Additionally, blacks reported poor general health at a rate of 5.8 percent - the highest of the three reported race/ethnicity categories, with non-Hispanic whites at 3.2 percent and Hispanics at 4.9 percent.

Why do we see such differences? A number of CHAS indicators give us insight. In 2013, 61.5 percent of non-Hispanic blacks reported visiting a health care facility in the 12 months before the survey compared to 82.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Related to health care visits, 74.1 percent of non-Hispanic blacks reported having a usual source of care compared to 85.4 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Both of these differences were found to be statistically significant.

Uninsurance rates tell a similar story. Nearly one of five blacks (19.6 percent) did not have insurance in 2013 – up five percentage points from 14.3 percent in 2011. Looking back to 2009, the number of blacks without insurance has increased nearly eight percentage points, from 12.0 percent to 19.6 percent.

Blacks also reported more difficulty paying their medical bills. About one of three (32.9 percent) reported problems paying medical bills compared to 16.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

There are, of course, myriad factors contributing to these disparities, such as differences in income, unemployment rates and educational attainment. To see more data related to race/ethnicity, download our demographics workbook here


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