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Housing, Food, Health Insurance, Medical Care: Some Roaring Fork Residents Must Choose

Oct 16, 2019

Credit Colorado Health Institute / www.coloradohealthinstitute.org/research/CHAS

Every two years, the Colorado Health Institute (CHI) releases the Colorado Health Access Survey (CHAS). This year’s results show residents in the Roaring Fork Valley struggle to afford medical care. 

In the Health Statistics Region 12 (HSR 12), which includes Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield Counties, 14.3% of residents are uninsured. That is up nearly 4% from 2017, and more than double the state’s 6.5%

Eli Boone, a research analyst with CHI, said many are uninsured because of affordability. 

“It’s expensive to live [in the Roaring Fork Valley], so things like food security and housing affordability all play into what you can afford,” he said. “For some Coloradans, that’s pricing them out of holding health insurance. 

14.5% of residents in HSR 12 were concerned about having stable housing in the next two months, which is the highest in the state. 

22.3% struggled to pay medical bills in HSR 12, and 34.8% received a medical bill in the mail they thought their insurance would cover. 

Boone said those struggles to pay bills and afford to access care can lead people to not interact with health systems at all. 

Eli Boone presenting to a group about the 2019 Colorado Health Access Survey results.
Credit Colorado Health Institute

“Everything is connected,” Boone said. “How affordable your health insurance coverage is, how much money you have for food and what your rent and mortgage do every month all plays into each other.”

Boone said the high cost of living in HSR 12 does not mean everyone who lives there is affluent and can afford medical treatment. He said the CHAS results show there are people struggling to afford housing, food and insurance, which can then lead to them avoiding medical treatment.