Guest opinion: On the importance of health insurance
For the second time, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the provisions of the Affordable Care Act through King v. Burwell. We breathe a sigh of relief knowing millions of Americans will continue to receive quality, affordable, health insurance.
But it’s important to realize that while millions around the country could have been greatly impacted by this decision, Colorado would have been largely shielded from any negative outcomes. Regardless of the ruling, all of the benefits of health-care reform, including tax credits aimed at providing affordable options for all Coloradans, would have continued to be available in our state.
How did this happen? As you know, Colorado has always had its own way of doing things. We try not to get bogged down in political jargon and partisan bickering. Our leaders recognize that when it comes to big decisions, they need to look beyond the divide of political affiliation and do what’s best for the citizens of Colorado.
That’s why when given the option to start a state-based exchange through the Affordable Care Act, Colorado had the foresight to create an independent health marketplace. Colorado’s leaders recognized an important fact about health insurance: It works. Uninsured people are sicker and more apt to die prematurely than their insured counterparts.
Death risk appears to be 25 percent higher for people with certain chronic conditions who are not insured compared with their insured counterparts. Uninsured families report medical bill problems at double or triple the rate of insured families. Medical bills were found to be a contributing factor in a sixth or more of bankruptcies.
For all these reasons and more, it is vital that Colorado continues its successful health insurance marketplace. This includes the expanded additional coverage to working families and individuals who had previously been priced out of health insurance and unable to afford it for themselves and their families. To date, nearly half a million Coloradans have used these efforts to gain coverage they previously couldn’t afford through Connect for Health Colorado and expanded access for working families.
Colorado’s marketplace and other health reform efforts have reduced the state’s uninsured rate from 17 percent to 11 percent. That’s the fifth-largest drop in the uninsured rate among all states.
To be sure, there is still work to be done to reach health equity for all of our citizens. But while millions of our friends and neighbors in states across the country were concerned about no longer being able to afford their health insurance, Coloradans never had that concern. No matter what, your pre-existing conditions cannot be held against you. No matter what, your child can stay on your insurance until he/she is 26 years old. And no matter what, we will continue to be a forward-thinking state that places the success of its citizens above the sensationalism of a political story.
Ross Brooks is chief executive officer of Mountain Family Health Centers, which has clinics in Glenwood Springs, Basalt, Edwards and Rifle.
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