DENVER – Skiers and snowboarders from across the country are hitting the slopes in Colorado, but the unique economics of resorts makes providing them with health coverage tricky.
According to the Colorado Community Health Network, mountain communities lead the state in the number of uninsured residents.
Lisa Brown, CEO of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurses Association, says higher costs of living near resorts push premiums way up, and after the snow melts many workers end up choosing between paying for coverage or paying rent.
“During the ski season, some folks may have access to an employer plan, and then be unemployed,” she points out. “And our job is really to just provide consistent care and access for them regardless of what their pay source may or may not be.”
Brown’s group is part of 186 federally qualified clinics across the state that provide a safety net for thousands of Coloradans who slip through cracks in the health system.
Brown says for people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid – even with federal subsidies and tax credits – premiums as high as $1,500 a month keep insurance out of reach.
Sarah Vaine, CEO of Summit Community Care Clinic, says Summit County ranks 17th in the nation out of some 3,100 counties for its percentage of Latinos without health insurance. She says even though the Affordable Care Act has helped bring uninsured rates down, community health clinics continue to play a critical role providing primary and dental care.
“I think the Medicaid expansion in particular has saved lives,” she states. “We have many examples of that occurring in our community. Access to insurance has improved, but we have a long way to go in terms of insurance being affordable and accessible to everyone.”
Vaine adds that one solution would be to take costs of living into account when calculating Medicaid eligibility. She says the federal poverty line can mean one thing in places such as rural Kentucky, but is different in resort towns where money pours in from across the country to buy second homes and expensive ski vacations.
To find a community clinic near you, visit cchn.org.