State of Aging: Health

State of Aging: Health

Signifying its importance, health and preventative care is one of the six major focus areas explicitly called out in our Actionable Aging Policy Agenda. While creating the agenda, collaborators and partners regularly cited good physical, oral, and emotional health as critical linchpins in maintaining happy, fulfilling lives. To better understand the overall health of older Coloradans, we explore the self-reported health statuses of individuals 65+ across our state, and a variety of measures related to affordability, access, and preventative care.

The Data

Self-reported health status is perhaps the most obvious indicator of an individual’s health and well-being. The charts below show how older Coloradans assess their own general, mental, and oral health.

Beyond the Topline

In examining the underlying factors which contribute to the self-reported health status of older Coloradans, we dug into several important issues including cost burden, health insurance coverage, use of preventative services, and general challenges to accessing care.

Cost concerns are a well-recognized barrier to health and well-being, and an inability to afford care can lead to skipping needed medical services. As can be seen below, this is a reality for some older Coloradans. Insurance can play a significant role in reducing health care costs. Importantly, different types of insurance provide varying levels of coverage and cost assistance. As seen below, insurance status and type differ for Coloradans 65 and older. Even with insurance however, medical care often requires some out-of-pocket costs, for example, to cover premiums, deductibles, or co-pays. As seen below, these out-of-pocket costs can take up a sizable portion of older Coloradans’ annual personal income.

Major Takeaways

There are tremendous health disparities amongst older Coloradans based upon race and ethnicity. Through top-level analysis, massive health disparities for older Coloradans based upon race and ethnicity quickly become evident. Beyond this topline number, however, other underlying health challenges also largely break down along racial and ethnic lines. For example, BIPOC older Coloradans are disproportionately amongst those who struggle to pay for food, avoid seeing a doctor because of cost challenges, and skip care due to inadequate transportation options.

While most older Coloradans have general health insurance, there are major gaps in access to dental insurance. While nearly all older Coloradans report having medical insurance, the percentage drops to approximately 55 percent when asked about dental insurance. This lack of insurance likely plays a role in the high number of older Coloradans who skip dental care due to cost concerns. Concerningly, this confluence of factors is a likely contributor to worse self-reported oral health outcomes for older Coloradans.

Medicare is the most significant payer of heath care services for older Coloradans. While older Coloradans have health coverage from a variety of sources, Medicare remains, far and away, the most prominent insurer. This reality must play a role in considerations of how to make heath care more affordable and accessible for older Coloradans.