With a new governor in place, Colorado has been proposing changes to the health care system lately. The recent Colorado State-of-the-State presentation focused on health care and boosting the ranks of Colorado insureds. One of the points that was made was that if we insure more people, there will be more of a demand for health care services. Hmmm, I suppose that is true. Although it’s like saying that if we help lift more of the developing world out of poverty, there will be more of a demand for food worldwide. True, but there will also be a decrease in starvation worldwide – seems like a good trade-off.
More of a demand for health care services would seem to be a natural result of more people having health insurance and access to care, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing, and I’m not convinced that it would be the result at all. If more people had access to routine care and medical problems could be caught at an early stage, perhaps the overall health of the nation would improve, and fewer people would have catastrophic health issues. Research has shown that breast cancer patient without health insurance are 49% more likely to die of the disease than insured women with breast cancer. And diabetics without insurance are 2.8 times as likely as their insured counterparts to be hospitalized for treatment of a complication that could have been controlled in an outpatient setting with earlier intervention.
Right now, over 16% of the Colorado population is without health insurance. These are the people who are most likely to skip routine health care, and more likely to be diagnosed with a serious illness at a more advanced stage than their fellow Coloradoans with health insurance. If everyone in Colorado had health insurance, perhaps our emergency rooms would not be overflowing with people using the ER as a primary care center, and ER services would be more readily available to people suffering from true emergencies. Perhaps more cancers would be caught in early stages, with a better prognosis and less treatment required. So I take an optimistic view of the stance that more insureds would lead to a higher demand for medical care.