CSU health care campaign gets 60 percent of uninsured students to sign up

A sign at the California State University, Los Angeles campus.
A sign at the California State University, Los Angeles campus. Cal State LA

Across the Cal State University system 60 percent of previously uninsured students now have health  care under the Affordable Care Act, according to survey results released Thursday by the CSU Health Insurance Education Project.

The Project aimed to reach about 100,000 students across 15 campuses who did not have medical insurance, according to a September survey.

When the enrollment period for the state’s exchange, Covered California, closed in the spring, 60 percent of those previously uninsured students reported they had signed up for insurance through the exchange, through Medi-Cal or through another insurance program. That leaves about 10 percent of the total student body  - of about 447,000 – without insurance.

"For a population of young, largely lower-income adult individuals, a rate of just 10 percent uninsured is unheard of in California," said Walter Zelman, project director and chair of the Department of Public Health at Cal State L.A.. "The issue is not invincibility, it is affordability. Students know they need insurance. Provide them with insurance they can afford, and offer them some education about it, and they will sign up."

Zelman credited the systemwide approach, access to students, the premium assistance through Covered California and new Medi-Cal rules that allow single adults to qualify for the success of the campaign.

The biggest gains occurred among Latinos, who tend to be uninsured at higher rates than others. That figure dropped from 42 percent without insurance to just 13 percent.

Zelman said affordability was the biggest deterrent for students.  That became the focus of classroom presentations, forums and enrollment events. The message: healthcare can be as affordable as two movie tickets and certainly less expensive than a cell phone bill.

The $1.25 million campaign was funded by Covered California. Spokeswoman Anne Gonzalez said the grant, one of the agency’s largest, is part of an effort to bring young people into the exchange.

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee sent a note to Zelman about the success of the program.

In the letter he wrote: "Getting young Californians enrolled in health care coverage has been a primary goal of Covered California and speaks to our core mission of ensuring that California's diverse population has fair and equal access to quality, affordable health care."

The CSU Project is now working to incorporate health insurance information into new orientation programs, to make it easier for future students to sign up for coverage. 

Highlights from the survey:

  • 45 percent of students who signed up for insurance said they did so because it was now affordable
  • 14 percent of students said they signed up for Covered California; 12 percent said they enrolled for Medi-Cal and another eight percent said they signed up for either program and are awaiting approval
  • The number of uninsured Latinos dropped from 42 percent to 13 percent
  • The number of  uninsured women dropped from 32 percent to 9 percent
  • Cal State LA still has the highest rate of uninsured students, 19 percent, but even that figure dropped from 35 percent in September
  •  The San Jose, Northridge and Fresno campuses have the lowest rates of uninsured students


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