Sacramento State seeks students for Obamacare

Jonathan Ayestas

A new project created by two universities is focused on educating students about health care before the approaching March 31 deadline.

Los Angeles State Department of Health Science Chair Walter Zelman said about 30 percent of all California State Students are uninsured.

“Students may either not realize that these options are now available to them or not know that Medi-Cal has been expanded to cover students that make below $15,860 now as of Jan. 1,” said Lara Falkenstein, Sacramento State health insurance coordinator.

The Health Insurance Education Project is a joint University of Southern California and CSU Los Angeles effort to inform students if they are either eligible for free healthcare through Medi-Cal or government supported Covered California, which serves as a marketplace to make purchasing health insurance simple and affordable.

Zelman said based on financial data, about 7,000 to 7,500 students at Sac State are eligible for free health care, while an additional 8,500 to 10,000 students can receive government support through Covered California, meaning about 50 percent of Sac State students able to receive health care.

Falkenstein believes students are under the impression primary and urgent care at the Well is a form of health insurance paid in their insurance.

While these services do help with injuries and some illnesses, they do not cover emergency room type cases.

“We just need to get the message out to them,” Zelman said.

The Health Insurance Education Project received a $1.25 million grant for statewide outreach to students and their families. Representatives from 15 of the 23 CSU campuses are involved in spreading education about the Affordable Care Act.

Falkenstein said more than 100 students at Sac State have applied in the past three weeks for the Affordable Care Act,while others said they applied on their own.

Zelman said the Affordable Care Act changes Medi-Cal law, which is for low-income Californians, and used to require that a student have a child to receive insurance, making many college students ineligible.

Students that cannot receive Medi-Cal may instead be eligible for money if they purchase health care through Covered California.

The website for Covered California shows different plans students may enroll in based on what they want to pay.

“If the plan pays $200 a month and the government pays $150, you’re left paying $50 a month,” Zelman said. “Some cases are less than that.”

CSU spokesperson Stephanie Thara said the Health Insurance Education Project has been promoted through web, email and social media, as well as classroom visits where students and faculty would give presentations about the benefits on each campus.

“CSU Dominguez Hills just held a forum where Chancellor Timothy White and several student leaders across the CSU campuses came and spoke about the Affordable Care Act and the benefits that it would have for students and families,” Thara said.

Falkenstein worked with Sac State Housing, Financial Aid, Student Organizations and Leadership, Associated Students Inc., California State Student Association, professors and different faculty members to promote awareness of affordable health insurance.

“We’ve reached out to large populations of the students,” Falkenstien said. “I think the students may not realize that these options are available to them or just not know that Medi-Cal has been expanded as of Jan. 1st.”

Flyers scattered across campus have information about office hours at the Well, which are hosted by Falkenstein to provide students the chance to sign up for affordable health care until March 31.

“Medi-Cal has changed under the Affordable Care Act so that now you don’t have to have a child to be eligible for free public insurance,” Zelman said. “We need to get that message across to our students because we know that tens of thousands of CSU students are newly eligible for Medi-Cal that’s going to cost them nothing.”