School was never difficult for me growing up. Things always just came easy to me—but then there was law school. Halfway through my first semester, I noticed myself reading lines multiple times to comprehend. Reading, which I could normally do for hours without getting tired, was now exhausting. On top of this, I had trouble concentrating on basic tasks—let alone legal work—and I ended most days with a splitting headache that left me afraid that I had a serious condition.
I finally decided it was time to go see my primary care provider with a list of symptoms and an expectation of the worst. The outcome, as it turned out, wasn’t very dramatic—go get an eye exam. I needed glasses. I was fortunate enough to have the coverage to get the care I needed to ease my anxieties and get back on track in school.
The Colorado Health Institute recently released its 2017 Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS), which tracks health coverage trends of Coloradans. In 2015, we saw the insurance rate drop to a historic low of 6.5 percent, and we’re glad to see—despite political uncertainty—that this number has remained relatively unchanged in 2017. Of course this is fantastic news, but that doesn’t mean our work is done. There are still, roughly, 350,000 uninsured Coloradans, and the disparities in coverage persist. Of Colorado’s remaining uninsured, 43 percent are people of color and as many as 25 percent are without legal status. Despite historic coverage gains, factors such as race, ZIP Code, and documentation status remain reliable predictors of a Coloradan’s health and access to care. People of color, those living in poverty, and those living in resource-strapped areas face many barriers to living healthy lives.
Policy activity at the national level has highlighted the need to not only maintain these coverage gains, but also to protect those most at-risk from these damaging health care decisions. Over the last couple months, President Trump announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Congress allowed the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to expire, the administration has slashed the health care enrollment period in half, and has committed to ending the subsidy payments for individual market plans that had finally put health insurance in reach for low-income families. All of this and more, pose great threats to the coverage gains we have seen as a state, and will severely impact our communities in Colorado that are most affected by preventable health disparities.
At Center for Health Progress, we believe our health care system should work for all Coloradans. Unfortunately, many policymakers still consider health insurance a privilege, and are unaware of the impact being uninsured has on a person’s health, as well as the disproportionate impact these policies will have on marginalized communities. It is essential that those with the power to affect change fight to ensure everyone has access to the health care they need. I am grateful to be one of the 93.5 percent of Coloradans who are insured—let’s work together to ensure that number keeps climbing, with no backsliding.