By Ashley Mayo, Strategic Engagement Fellow

A Census report released yesterday suggests that, when it comes to getting more Americans health coverage, Obamacare is working.

According to the report, “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2011,” the number of uninsured dropped by about 1.4 million in 2011; the largest numerical drop since at least 1999. Further, the number of Americans with private insurance did not decrease for the first time in 10 years. Experts attribute this good news to the Affordable Care Act provision that allows young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26.

As a recent college grad, I feel very lucky to receive health insurance through an employer. (Thanks CCHI!) For many of my peers, being able to stay on parents’ insurance policies has been a lifesaver. In the rocky young adult world of entry-level jobs, unpaid internships, and unstable employment, access to affordable healthcare provides some much-needed consistency. 


Chloe, Age 25

Interestingly, the number of uninsured individuals in Colorado did not decrease along with the national average, but remained stagnant at 16% of the population, or about 710,000 Coloradans. However, our state’s poverty rate jumped from 9.8% in 2006-2007 to 12.7% in 2010-2011, meaning that almost 167,000 more Coloradans are now living in poverty.

The fact that the rate of uninsured Coloradans did not rise along with the poverty rate “makes clear the important role government programs like Medicaid and CHIP are playing in Colorado as they provide a critical safety net for low-income and uninsured Coloradans,” according to Elisabeth Arsenales, health program director at The Colorado Center on Law and Policy. The percentage of Coloradans covered by Medicaid under age 65 rose from 8.5% in 2006-2007 to 13.1% in 2010-2011.

In light of information on Colorado’s changing poverty level, the uninsured rate staying level is a win, as well as a reminder of the importance of our public insurance programs. These programs have become so important in these tough economic times: nearly 30% of Coloradans have some kind of government insurance.  These programs provide Coloradans with the coverage they need, so that they can get back on their feet. 

While this new census data is, in many ways, encouraging, it is important to remember that over 48 million Americans still lack health coverage.  This is a serious economic, social, and humanitarian problem, and in order to address it, it is critical that we continue to fully implement The Affordable Care Act, which will extend health insurance to nearly all Americans in 2014.

These figures, which come from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey for income, poverty and health insurance in Colorado, are preliminary.  On September 20th, the Census Bureau will release more definitive 2011 data as part of the American Community Survey, which is a more in-depth review of poverty and income in the states.  We look forward to learning more about how we can help Coloradans get the health coverage they need, when they need it.

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