Campus health center prepares for Obamacare enrollment
UPDATE: Today Covered California approved SF State’s Student Health Center to become a licensed Affordable Care Act enrollment entity, according to SF State’s lead health coordinator, Aimée Williams.
“Now we have to find out the info and see what comes next,” Williams said. “How do we get trained and when can we get students in here; hopefully in the next few weeks.”
As America rolls out the Affordable Care Act (ACA), SF State works to help students navigate the new healthcare system by becoming an insurance enrollment entity.
In 2014, citizens, regardless of age, will be required to have health insurance or pay a fine. Although students covered by their employers or parent’s plan will likely not have to change coverage, uninsured and independent students face a decision to either pay for new health coverage or pay a tax.
SF State’s Student Health Center submitted their application to become a licensed ACA enrollment facility early September and await approval.
“Things are going to be difficult the first time around,” said Aimée Williams, SF State’s lead health educator overseeing the campus’s transition into Covered California, the state’s rendition of the ACA. “I am concerned that it will be hard to educate SF State students that it is important to have outside health insurance and get them to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, whether it is MediCal or through Covered CA.”
The California State University system currently works with Wells Fargo and Anthem Blue Cross to provide optional, supplemental health insurance to students, though many students who do have insurance are covered through their parents or employer.
In 2014, this system will become obsolete due to the expansion of MediCal, California’s version of Medicaid, which is a much cheaper alternative for students, according to Alastair Smith, director of the Student Health Center.
This would mean that Williams, along with a potential team of trained students, would be licensed counselors to assist students in finding the most beneficial healthcare plan for them.
So far, the ACA national rollout has been wrought with technical failures, national budget disagreements and a costly government shutdown.
“There is way too much political power to stop to it (ACA) now,” said Ramón Castellblanch, associate professor of health education at SF State and visiting scholar at UC Berkeley. “They’ve already drawn their plans, the train has left the station and it’s going to move forward.”
Castellblanch said, through Covered California, applicants can view coverage options available and check which plans will cover visits to their regular physicians. He said, with the student center’s help, students can become educated and choose the right plan.
The portion of tuition dedicated to the Student Health Center won’t change, nor will the care and access provided to students, according to Smith.
The uninsured, however, as required by the ACA, will find themselves paying a fee of $95 or 1 percent of their family income, and by 2016 the fee will be $695 or 2.5 percent of family income. The government will take whatever rate is higher and the only way to avoid the fee is to purchase healthcare either through the government or a private source, according to the ACA.
A student earning $18,000 a year can expect to pay about $780 a year on health insurance, though rates vary, according to the Healthcare Marketplace.
A student earning less than that may apply for MediCal, meaning the government will assist in covering monthly costs.
The ACA will also ban insurance companies from denying coverage to those with preexisting conditions and lift the “lifetime cap,” which limits how much money insurance companies pay out annually for a patient.
“I don’t think it’s necessary for the government to require healthcare, but I do think it’s fair,” said Raul Amaya, an SF State psychology graduate working for Associated Students, Inc., explaining that he knows someone whom was labeled uninsurable because of a terminal illness. “Some individuals are unable to acquire healthcare in the current system.”
Previously, Medicare and Medicaid were reserved for people over the age of 65, but the ACA expands coverage to include adults without dependent children, which Williams believes includes most SF State students.
“It’s a step in the direction of universal insurance. It’s a major step but it’s just a step,” Castellblanch said. “Every other major country offers universal insurance. We are the huge outlier here. I think the fact is that this system is going to greatly increase the people who are insured. Someday hopefully the deductible will go down. I hope at some point, they get a handle on cost control.”
Williams acknowledges that change can be difficult, but encourages students to use the Student Health Center and its resources.
“Its OK to be frustrated,” Williams said. “It can get confusing, but we are here to help. The most important thing is to provide information at a level everyone can understand so students can make the best decision for them.”