By Ross Brooks, CEO, patient, Mountain Family Health Centers
Today more than a third of the 21,000 patients served at Mountain Family Health Centers have no health insurance. That’s more than 7,500 human beings in Garfield, Eagle, and/or Pitkin Counties without the insurance to cover their medical, behavioral, and/or dental healthcare needs.
This sobering statistic comes more than a decade after the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, and seven years after Colorado launched its health insurance marketplace, called Connect for Health Colorado, and expanded Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands of Coloradans in 2014.
And yet more than 7,500 of our neighbors, friends, and family members remain without health insurance in our communities. According to the Commonwealth Fund, the number of uninsured has risen to a staggering 30 million people nationwide, with another 40 million people under-insured across America. The drivers of the uninsured are varied, but the most common recurring themes locally are lack of affordable choices in our health insurance marketplace, lack of understanding how to qualify for health insurance subsidies, and lack of insurance eligibility for some immigrant families or families that make too much income to qualify for insurance subsidies.
National hope: The recent passage of the American Rescue Plan Act offers sweeping improvements to health insurance for Americans nationwide, including several provisions that should help reduce the uninsured rate nationwide, including zero-premium plans for people earning up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level ($19,140 for an individual, $39,300 for a family of four) and capping costs for people with incomes above 400 percent of poverty ($51,040 for an individual, $104,800 for a family of four) at 8.5 percent of income.
State hope: Our state legislators representing Western Colorado have been working tirelessly on bi-partisan strategies to bring health insurance and care within reach of all Coloradans. Senator Bob Rankin and Representative Julie McCluskie helped pass reinsurance legislation to control health insurance costs in Western Colorado. And this legislative session, Senator Kerry Donovan and Representative Dylan Roberts have introduced legislation called the “Colorado Option Bill,” which Mountain Family Health Centers supports in the name of helping more of our 7,500+ uninsured patients access affordable insurance and care.
Local hope: We’re grateful to our community hospitals, counties, partners, and funders for their support of the uninsured across Garfield, Eagle, and Pitkin Counties. We’re also heartened by the work of the Valley Health Alliance, which this past year partnered with Rocky Mountain Health Plans to drive competition and rate reductions in the local individual insurance marketplace, helping hundreds of previously uninsured patients afford health insurance. And we’re interested in the partnership between Garfield County and Peak Health Alliance aiming to bring coverage and care within reach for more county residents.
At Mountain Family Health Centers, we continue to improve our services and pricing to best meet the needs of the uninsured in our communities. Earlier this year, we expanded our sliding fee scale providing discounted medical, dental, and behavioral health services to cover patients up to 400% of the federal poverty level. This means that uninsured individuals making up to $51,040/year or an uninsured family of four making up to $104,800/year can receive discounted medical, dental, and behavioral health care at Mountain Family Health Centers.
While we’re encouraged by the national, state, and local efforts to reduce the rate of the uninsured, our work is far from done. We can do better on behalf of the 7,500+ remaining uninsured in our communities. At Mountain Family, we’ll continue to support local, state, and national efforts that bring affordable health insurance coverage and care into reach for every member of our community.
To make an appointment at Mountain Family, visit us online at www.mountainfamily.org or call us at 970-945-2840.