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New Survey Shows More Coloradans Struggling To Pay Medical Bills

Leigh Paterson
Jeff Bontrager, Director of Research and Evaluation at the Colorado Health Institute, explains the results of the 2019 Colorado Health Access Survey.

A vast majority of Coloradans, 93.5%, have health insurance, but more are struggling to pay their medical bills, according to a new report from the Colorado Health Institute (CHI) based on a survey of 10,000 households.


Data from the 2019 Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS) shows that Weld, Jefferson and Douglas counties have the lowest rates of people without health insurance, ranging from 2.6% to 4.1%. Mountain counties like Eagle and Grand have the highest, ranging from 11.3% to 14.3%.


Although state-wide insurance numbers have been stable since 2015, people who worked on the CHAS point to concerns.  


“That’s why we call this presentation ‘Progress in Peril’... because a lot of the other cues from the data are pointing to potential problems with affordability,” said Jeff Bontrager, director of research and evaluation at CHI. 


18% of people polled said they had trouble paying their medical bills in the past year, compared to 14% in 2017. 


The 2019 CHAS also showed that more Coloradans have been struggling to access behavioral health services. 13.5% of respondents said they have not received needed mental health services and 2.3% reported not receiving needed substance abuse treatment. 


“That 2.3% represents an estimated 95,000 Coloradans, which is roughly the size of the city of Longmont,” Bontrager said. 

Challenges to accessing behavioral health services range from cost to lack of insurance to worries about a stigma around treatment.


As KUNC's Senior Editor and Reporter, my job is to find out what’s important to northern Colorado residents and why. I seek to create a deeper sense of urgency and understanding around these issues through in-depth, character driven daily reporting and series work.
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