News statement: CHI Study Set Baseline for Discussion: Distribution of Primary Care Providers Out of Balance

February 14, 2014


Maureen Maxwell, CCHN
(303) 861-5165, ext. 259
(303) 913-9078 (mobile)

CHI Study Sets Baseline for Discussion:
Distribution of Primary Care Providers Out of Balance
Access to Primary Health Care is the Answer to Many of Health Care System Problems

Statement attributable to
Polly Anderson
Chief Operating Officer
Colorado Community Health Network (CCHN)

DENVER― The Colorado Health Institute (CHI) has provided a valuable look at how primary health care providers are distributed regionally in Colorado. Access to primary health care is essential to effective health care. CHI’s study shows that some regions in Colorado do not have an adequate number of primary care providers to meet the ratio of providers to patients used in CHI’s study. The disparity is even greater for Coloradans covered by Medicaid: the study found that even some areas that appear to have an adequate supply of primary care providers may not have enough providers who accept Medicaid.

Access to care is impacted by many things, including an adequate number of primary care providers, what kinds of insurance coverage they accept, hours of operation, and how close they are to convenient modes of transportation. There are Community Health Centers (CHC) located in many of the underserved areas pointed out in the study because a basic requirement of the CHC model is to break down barriers to health care, including locating within easy access to underserved communities and underserved populations. Many are located next to public transportation routes. CHCs care for people regardless of their insurance status and care for one-third of Coloradans who are covered by Medicaid. CHCs break down the affordability barrier by using a sliding fee scale, which allows patients to contribute to their own care based on their income, so no one is turned away because of their insurance status.

It is challenging to recruit and retain physicians in these areas, and CHI discussed some of these challenges in their report. The authors pointed out that many providers choose to work near where they grew up or where they trained Colorado’s CHCs have been working on this through innovative approaches such as loan repayment, staff training and development, and data collection. Colorado is very fortunate to have the Colorado Health Service Corps, noted in the CHI report for having provided nearly $14 million in loan repayment to health care trainees who agree to work in underserved urban and rural settings. Similarly, the National Health Service Corps provides loan repayment and scholarships, helping 128 providers work in Colorado, 53 percent of them at CHCs, and all work in the safety net.

There are many Coloradans whose health care needs are not being met by the health care system. More needs to be done, including making training for health care careers accessible and affordable to more people and showing them the rewards of health care careers in underserved communities. That will increase access to health care. CHI has provided an analysis that will be useful to all of our work to continue to change the health care system to one that meets our needs – regardless of where we live in our fair state.

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To interview Ms. Anderson, please contact Maureen Maxwell at (303) 861-5165, Ext. 259, cell (303)913-9078, or

The study, Colorado’s Primary Care Workforce: A Study of Regional Disparities, and CHI’s news release can be found here:

Information about CCHN’s workforce recruitment efforts can be found here:

The Colorado Community Health Network (CCHN) is the unified voice for Colorado’s 19 Community Health Centers (CHCs) and their patients. CHCs provide a health care home to more than 600,000 of their community members – over one in 10 people in Colorado – from 60 of the state’s 64 counties. Without CHCs, hundreds of thousands of Colorado’s low-income families and individuals would have no regular source of health care. CCHN’s mission is to increase access to high quality health care for people in need in Colorado. For more information about CCHN, please visit