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Insight & Analysis / How Might Colorado's Enrollment Numbers Affect Uninsured Rates?

About one of five (19.6 percent) working-age adults in Colorado – approximately 640,000 people – were uninsured last October heading into open enrollment in the state’s new insurance marketplace, according to the 2013 Colorado Health Access Survey.

During the six-month enrollment period that ended March 31, about 263,000 working-age adults, those between the ages of 18 and 64, signed up for health insurance, either public or private.

What do these numbers tell us about Colorado’s uninsured rates?

First, it’s not simple math. Data aren’t collected on how many of the enrollees already had health insurance, so we don’t know how many of those 263,000 are newly insured.

But we do have a way to extrapolate the possible impact on the state’s uninsured rate. A national survey of uninsured rates conducted quarterly by the Urban Institute, in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that the number of uninsured working-age adults fell by 5.4 million, or 2.7 percentage points, during that time.

States that expanded Medicaid eligibility saw a 4-point drop in uninsured rates compared to a decline of 1.5 percentage points in states that did not expand their Medicaid programs.

Because Medicaid enrollees tend to have lower incomes, more of them may have become newly insured, which may explain the disparity in uninsured rates between states that expanded Medicaid and those that did not.

Assuming that Colorado mirrored the national finding, the uninsured rate for working-age adults would fall by 4 percentage points from 19.6 percent to 15.6 percent. That translates to more than 130,600 newly insured working-age adults.  

The number of people who are newly covered is likely to increase as consumers complete their applications. Colorado has given those who started the process an extension until April 15. People waiting for a Medicaid determination have until May 31 to enroll in commercial insurance. There is no cut-off for Medicaid applications, which are year-round.

Finally, CHI expects that more people will sign up for insurance during the 2015 open enrollment period, which begins on November 15, 2014, when penalties will go up.

All of these factors will continue to impact Colorado’s uninsurance rate, which CHI will continue to monitor.

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