Many college students risk not having any type of health coverage because they believe they are young, in good health and relatively safe from illness and injury. This is the mindset Carlos Maciel had during his time at Ventura Community College.
What Maciel did not realize was that being young did not mean he was invincible, and having access to health care is imperative at any age.
“As a student, it’s really important to be insured because you always want that peace of mind that you can get the best medical attention in case of an emergency,” he said.
An avid basketball player, Maciel has had his fair share of emergencies.
“I’ve sprained my ankle way too many times to count,” he said.
While under the care of his parents’ health care plan, Maciel would take trips to the doctor to verify the sprain and seek treatment.
In recent months, however, Maciel found himself without health insurance, and a twisted ankle. Maciel preferred to self-wrap his ankle and numb the pain with bags of ice rather than take a trip to the hospital to receive the medical attention he needed.
Now, at 22-years-old, the civil engineering major and CSUN transfer has signed up with Ventura County’s Access Coverage Enrollment (ACE) Program for Adults, a program that offers health care to the uninsured.
Though the ACE Program is not health insurance, it does allow qualified residents access to medical care at various facilities in Ventura County, according to the ACE Program website.
Ventura County residents between the ages of 19 and 64 qualify for the ACE Program if they do not have any type of insurance coverage and their income does not exceed 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
Similarly, the Northeast Valley Health Corporation (NEVHC) offers healthcare to the medically underserved residents of Los Angeles County, particularly those in the San Fernando Valley, regardless of their financial situation.
In a statement written on their website, the NEVHC notes: “While our patients are united by their experience of medical need, they come from every walk of life and background. Regardless of one’s ability to pay, we provide medical care for children, the disabled, older adults, families and the homeless, to name a few.”
The NEVHC has a number of primary care health centers, including facilities in Pacoima, Van Nuys, Sun Valley, Canoga Park, Valencia, San Fernando and Santa Clarita.
Because the ACE Program only allows him to receive medical attention at facilities in Ventura County, Maciel, who spends his week in the Northridge area, has considered other healthcare options, such as CSUN’s student health care plan.
Students enrolled at CSUN are not required to have any type of health coverage, although it is recommended, said Sharon Aronoff, health educator at the Klotz Health Center.
Associated Students offers a low-cost student health insurance policy, she said.
The entire CSU system works with Wells Fargo Insurance Services’ Student Insurance Division to establish the best insurance policies for each campus.
CSUN offers a domestic student health care plan under Health Net, said Daniela Cross, assistant to the A.S. general manager. Health Net serves as the underwriter of the plan and determines the eligibility of potential clients.
The annual cost for CSUN’s health care plan ranges from $1,548 to $6,804 depending on the age of eligible undergraduate students. Regularly matriculated students who are enrolled in nine units or more are eligible.
Accounting major Octavio Cortes, 22, is covered by the student health insurance plan offered by CSUN.
Though he has not yet used the benefits provided by the health care package, Cortes is simply pleased to be insured.
“It’s always good to be covered because you never know what will happen,” he said.
Cortes is satisfied with the CSUN health care plan, which allows students to seek medical treatment with any health care physician within its provider network.
Health Net has a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan that offers insured clients freedom, said Eric Tandingan, administrative assistant at Kohan Group, a financial services company in Ventura.
“PPO health insurance offers a wide range of access to medical care,” he said.
The University of California system differs from CSUN in that all registered students at the ten campuses are automatically enrolled in the University of California Student Health Insurance Plan (UC SHIP), and the charges are added to their tuition bill. Students may waive out of UC SHIP if they have comparable and verifiable health coverage, the website stated.
Sarah Venezuela, a 19-year-old communications major at UC Santa Barbara, is covered under the health plan and said living away from her parents has made UC SHIP a valuable asset.
“My parents live in San Francisco, and I’ve always been covered by their health insurance, but their HMO offers a very limited out-of-area coverage,” she said. “I had no choice but to accept the UC’s mandatory health insurance for my time at UCSB.”
The annual fee for UC SHIP varies with each university in the UC system. At UCSB, registered undergraduate students pay a fee of $430.84 per quarter, said Elaine Grimmesey, insurance coordinator at the USCB Student Health Center.
“It’s a hefty price but it’s worth it,” Venezuela said.
High prices may be enough to turn most students away, but Cortes, Venezeula and Maciel all see the value in being insured.
Maciel said he would be willing to pay over $1,500 each year for health coverage.
“The high cost of student health insurance is not as important as being in good care.”