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Insight & Analysis / Low-Income Coloradans Struggle to Access Care

You’ve heard the buzz, you’ve seen the tweets and maybe you even came to our Safety Net Advisory Committee (SNAC) Learning Lab. 

The Colorado Access to Care Index is out! The index measures the ease of obtaining health care by scoring Colorado communities from a low of one to a high of 10 based on indicators for potential access, barriers to care and realized access. 

Overall, the state scores 7.7 on the Colorado Access to Care Index, meaning many but not all Coloradans are able to get health care when they need it.

But the index shows that low-income Coloradans have more difficulty accessing care than those with higher incomes. Coloradans with annual incomes of less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) posted a score of 6.3. Those with incomes between 139 and 400 percent of FPL scored 7.1, and Coloradans bringing in incomes of more than 400 percent FPL scored 7.8. 

Scores from each of the three subcategories – potential access, barriers to care and realized access – also improved as income increased. 

The score for potential access, which is based on insurance coverage and the health care workforce, varied the most by income.

For Coloradans earning less than 138 percent of FPL, the income threshold for Medicaid eligibility, the percentage with health insurance declined from 74.5 percent to 71.4 percent between 2009 and 2011, while the percentage who could not afford doctor care increased from 17.9 percent to 20.5 percent.

By 2013, the index begins to show evidence that the economy was improving after the Great Recession. From 2011 to 2013, the percentage of those low-income Coloradans who had health insurance increased from 71.4 percent to 77 percent. And the percentage of those who didn’t get health care because it cost too much dropped from 20.5 percent to 17.3 percent.

The index will help us to measure whether the lowest-income Coloradans gain better access to care after more of them become insured. If their Colorado Access to Care Index score doesn’t improve, it will be an indication that they are encountering barriers other than insurance coverage.  

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