It’s no secret that our economy is weak right now; it’s low on resources, vulnerable, and hoping for a reversal in fortune. Unfortunately, that describes a lot of Coloradans, too.
I am a part of a generation of Americans whose ambition (and, for a number of us, education) couldn’t overcome the distressing reality that employment is difficult to come by these days. Some of us were in the right place at the right time and found a good job right away when entering the workforce; more of us had to settle for pre-entry level work with low hourly pay and no benefits; and even more of us continue the job hunt for months or years.
I feel fortunate that my search lasted less than a year—joining CCMU meant not only a career in my field of study, but also access to health insurance. And these days, those two things are equally valuable. Many people my age continue to struggle to find coverage, despite their best efforts. According to the Colorado Health Access Survey, there are 317,981 uninsured Coloradans that are between the ages of 19 and 34 right now; that’s nearly 28% of all the people in my age group.
Having health insurance means fewer emergency room visits, less unbearable medical debt, more chronic disease management, and more preventive and primary care services. Many Coloradans who work hard every day to keep our state running—the gas station clerks, the seamstresses, the maintenance workers, the state employees who are not allowed (by state law) to participate in CHP+ for their kids even though their income is low enough—are left to try and find affordable coverage on their own or to utilize the state’s safety net. Our safety net is there to catch those for whom the system isn’t working—it has hundreds of providers who care deeply about our state’s most needy and thousands of programs, clinics, and community organizations doing great work to improve coverage and access; but our safety net is still a net, after all, and nets have holes.
Right now, one of those very large holes is a coverage option for low-income adults without dependent children (AwDC). Colorado is currently moving toward a gradual roll-out of Medicaid coverage for this population, starting this April. When it is fully implemented sometime between now and 2014, we could see an estimated 143,000 uninsured adults covered by this program. Additional legislation has been passed to plug other holes in the safety net, and state agencies are working hard to implement these changes and other streamlining, cost-saving measures. Together, we are building a stronger, more impenetrable safety net that can catch Coloradans facing tough times.
Eventually, our economy will recover, and health insurance will be available for even more Coloradans through employer-based coverage, the Colorado Health Benefits Exchange, or our public programs. In the meantime, I applaud the hard work that is being done now to strengthen our safety net. I encourage you to learn more about what’s ahead and how you can get involved.