Snapshot of Colorado Women's Health - September 2002

Denver Women's Commission
Snapshot of Colorado Women's Health - September 2002

Philip A. Hernandez, Ph.D., Executive Director

Chaer Robert, Director
DENVER, CO 80204
TELEPHONE: 720-913-8465
FAX: 720-913-8470
TTY: 720-913-8475

Wellington E. Webb

Prepared for Health Care Task Force
Also for Colorado Woman News
By Chaer Robert
September 17, 2002

Snapshot of Colorado Women's Health

Compared with women in other states, Colorado women are less likely to die of heart disease, lung cancer or breast cancer. Colorado women are less likely to be overweight, to smoke and are more likely to be physically active and eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and to have had a mammogram and Pap smear. Colorado women are far more likely to commit suicide, to abuse alcohol and to have low birth weight babies. Colorado women are more likely to have individual insurance or employer insurance in their own name. They are far less likely to be covered by Medicaid.

Compared to men, Colorado women are slightly more likely to have health care coverage until age 55, at which time more men than women are covered. Women make up more than half of the growing "contingent" workforce -- temporary, part-time and contract employment that is less likely to have health care benefits. Only 23.4% of part-time workers versus 71.9% of full time workers are eligible for health plan coverage where they work. CoverColorado (Colorado's program for those who cannot get health insurance due to a medical condition) insures many more women than men. Women are more likely to suffer from nonfatal acute and chronic conditions, more likely to live with disabilities, depression, arthritis, MS, panic disorders, eating disorders. The only group among whom smoking is increasing is teen girls (38.1% of Colorado high school girls smoke). Women have higher rates of health service use, physician visits and prescription and non-prescription drug use. They have one-third the rate of substance abuse than men. But on average women die 15 years earlier when they do abuse alcohol. Women do live 6 years longer than men.

Caregiving --Women account for 72% of those who prove unpaid care for the elderly and people with disabilities. The typical caregiver is in her mid-forties to mid-fifties. She is employed full-time and also spends an average of 18 hours per week on caregiving. Women caregivers provide 50% more hours of care per week than male caregivers and for longer periods of time. Eldercare givers lose an average of $550,000 in total wage wealth, and their Social Security benefits decrease an average of $2100 annually. One-third of informal caregivers consider themselves to be in fair to poor health.

Reproductive Health Care -- Of all health conditions faced by women, pregnancy, understandably, solicits the greatest state support. A pregnant woman qualifies for Medicaid up to 135% of Poverty ($20,277 for family of 3), or now Child Health Plan up to 185% of Poverty ($27,787 for family of 3), regardless of assets. Her non-pregnant sister qualifies only if she already has a child, few assets, and an income under 36% of poverty level ($5407. for family of 3). Women, Infants and Children provides food supplements for those pregnant or breastfeeding. Substance abuse treatment is available under Medicaid only during pregnancy.

The Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment act has been implemented, with a current caseload of 20 women.

For young adult women, their visit with an ob/gyn is likely to be their only primary and preventative health care visit. In recognition of this, the General Assembly voted to require health plans to allow women to see a gynecologist without a separate referral. The state provides family planning services including gynecological and male exams, cervical, breast and testicular cancer screening, contraceptive information and supplies, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, health education, counseling and referrals. The program pays for no abortion services. In 2000, 52,000 women and men received services. With the canceling of the contract with Planned Parenthood, will as many individuals be served with as many services?

Primary References: "The Status of Women in Colorado", 2002 by Women's Foundation of Colorado
"Faces of Caregiving",OWL- The Voice of Midlife and Older Women, 2001
"Colorado Health Care Task Force Resource Book", 2000
"Colorado Health Data Book", Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved, 2001
"Women and Substance Abuse", Colorado Substance Abuse Study Group, 2001


1. Work toward the addition of low-income parents to the Child Health Plan.

2. Phase in substance abuse as a covered Medicaid service.

3. Colorado needs more mental health services and substance abuse programs. About 90% of those who commit suicide experience depression, substance abuse or another diagnosable psychological disorder. Only 6 substance abuse programs in the state have residential beds for women, only 5 of them have any beds for their young children.

4. Preserve funding for smoking prevention activities including the Women and Tobacco Task Force through the State Department of Health. Smoking prevention efforts can reduce future health expenditure on low-birthweight babies, heart disease (the number one cause of death for women), lung cancer (the number one cause of cancer death for women), and osteoporosis.

5. The Family and Medical Leave Act covers fewer than half of employees. Coverage could be expanded to employers of 25 or more (currently 50); reducing the required tenure from one year to six months; reducing the required hours work per year (currently 1250) to include more part-time workers. Many workers do not get sick leave or don't get sick leave for their children, leaving them to make after-hours visits to emergency rooms.

6. Insure that at least 52,000 women and men continue to receive state-funded family planning and related primary and preventative health care.