According to new data, no matter how difficult the past year was, it could have been much worse if measures were not taken to provide insurance, food and stay for people in their homes.
The Colorado Health Care Access Study, which surveyed more than 10,000 families in Colorado, found that the level of uninsured households remained largely stable between 2019 and 2021, with fewer people reporting worries about losing their home or about the lack of food.
The survey asks people about their experiences from the previous year, so the 2021 data gives an idea of what has happened since the coronavirus emerged in the spring of 2020.
“The social safety net has survived,” said Jeff Bontrager, who was the principal investigator for the study at the Colorado Institute of Public Health. “For example, we might see a sharp rise in uninsured rates.”
About 6.6% of Colorado residents reported that they were not insured in 2021, which is marginally different from the 6.5% reported in 2019. However, Hispanics are more likely to find themselves uninsured than in 2019, which may be due to the rhetoric about immigration last time. year, Bontrager said.
The data showed that fewer people had coverage through their work or individual market, but Medicaid seemed to absorb those who lost other forms of insurance. About one in four Colorado residents reported that Medicaid was their main source of insurance last year.
The federal requirement to enroll Medicaid recipients during a public health emergency reduced churn from the program, Bontrager said, possibly helping to increase its share. Ordinarily, if a family’s income rises too much when it comes to their annual checkup, they will lose Medicaid eligibility, although they can return if their income drops again.
“People who were enrolled in Medicaid remained on Medicaid,” he said.
Policy choices could also reduce the number of people dealing with housing insecurity, Bontrager said.
About 5.6% of people surveyed in 2021 expressed concern about losing their homes in the coming months, up from 6.7% in 2019. The eviction moratorium was likely a factor, although tenants were still more likely to report their concerns about lagging behind than homeowners. with a mortgage, he said.
Food insecurity has also declined, with 8.1% of Colorado residents reporting that they ate less than they expected for financial reasons. In 2019, 9.6% of those surveyed said they were saving on food. This may reflect efforts by nonprofits and schools to provide food to vulnerable families, as well as the impact of federal incentive payments, Bontrager said.
However, the impact of the pandemic was significant and affected some groups significantly more than others. Blacks, American Indians, and Hispanics who responded, more likely than their white counterparts, said they had to fight on almost all fronts, whether it was paying rent or food, losing their jobs, or not getting the right medical care.
Of all interviewed people over 16 years old:
- 38.3% reported that their mental health had deteriorated
- 29.3% have lost at least some income
- 17.2% struggled to pay for basic necessities
- 11.9% lost their jobs
In fact, the percentage of people reporting poor physical health has decreased, but the number of people with mental health problems has increased. Nearly 24% of people age 5 and older reported having had poor mental health for at least eight days in the month leading up to the survey. In 2019, just over 15% said the same thing.
Adults between the ages of 19 and 29 reported the greatest exposure, with 35% reporting poor mental health. This rate gradually declined with age, and only about 12.5% of people aged 65 and over said their mental health was poor.
Teens and adolescents were also more likely to report problems, with 18.5% saying their mental health was poor, up from 14% in 2019. Children under the age of 10 reported minor changes, with 7.2% reporting poor mental health.
While there is some positive news, since respondents were more likely to report seeking help for their mental health, it will be difficult to serve all the people who report problems, especially in a system without enough providers, Bontrager said.
“Mental health problems really represent a second health crisis,” he said.