Hispanic Students Insured in Record Numbers at California Universities
Uninsured Students at CSU
Two campuses in the large CSU system were chosen to participate in a survey of uninsured Hispanic students: Los Angeles and Long Beach. Each of these campuses had previously shown high rates of uninsured Hispanic students when compared to other campuses in the state. They were the only two to have uninsured rates higher than 10 percent at the end of open enrollment in 2014. At that time, 19 percent of Hispanic students at the L.A. campus were uninsured, and 15 percent at the Long Beach campus were still uninsured.
The uninsured students represent a demographic often referred to as the “young invincibles.” These are young people who are healthy and often find health insurance to be an unnecessary expense. Reaching them is important because health insurance plans need young and healthy participants to round out the pool of insured members. Being insured is also important for young individuals, who may experience financial hardship if they do get sick or injured without insurance coverage. Young Hispanics are much more likely to be uninsured than Caucasian students.
Uninsured Rates Down for 2015
The recent survey found that uninsured rates for the two campuses dropped to 9 percent each. The average uninsured rate for Hispanic students across all seven CSU campuses is now down to 7 percent. The rate of 7 percent means that the Hispanic uninsured rate has dropped a total of 70 percent since open enrollment in Covered California (the state’s healthcare exchange for the Affordable Care Act) began in 2013. Before the first open enrollment period, uninsured rates for Hispanic students were as high as 25 percent.
How California Reached its Uninsured Students
Traditionally the Hispanic population has been difficult to reach when it comes to health insurance coverage. This group is much more likely to be uninsured than other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. Cultural and language barriers and poverty, as well as fears about residency, have long kept many individuals from getting coverage.
The dramatic increase in coverage for young Hispanic students can be attributed to a number of factors. The Affordable Care Act has been a big player in getting more people from all walks of life covered by health insurance. Most importantly, the financial support offered by the law has opened the door for many people, including young Hispanic Americans, to be able to consider purchasing coverage.
Outreach efforts have also helped greatly to drop the uninsured rates on CSU campuses. The university system has supported this outreach, which has made a big difference. Peer-to-peer programs, in-class presentations about health insurance, and Covered California insurance fairs have all contributed to getting students on board with purchasing health insurance plans. Also a factor was the financial penalty. With awareness, students learned that penalties for not being enrolled could amount to a greater cost than the lowest-cost insurance plan.
The outcome of outreach efforts and other factors has been to get more young Hispanics covered by health insurance, which is overwhelmingly positive. By reaching this vulnerable group, the overall health insurance pool will benefit, but so too will individuals.