It has been three years since Juan A. Mendoza was covered under any sort of health insurance policy.
â€œMy parents removed me from their insurance policy when I moved out of the house,â€ said Mendoza, a criminology major. He is one of 6.5 million Californians uninsured today.
Since that time, Mendoza suffered a sports injury and was involved in a car accident. He only sought medical treatment for the latter.
By skipping a doctorâ€™s visit during his football injury, Mendoza saved himself from a hefty bill. This, however, did not come without sacrifice.
â€œWhen that happened, I didnâ€™t go see a doctor or receive any medical attention,â€ he said. â€œTill this day, it hurts once in awhile when I put pressure on it. I think if I would have gone to see a doctor, it would probably have healed better.â€
One of the few times he sought a doctorâ€™s help was after a car accident when his car was totaled. Without health insurance, Mendoza opted for the services of the campus health center.
â€œIâ€™ve used the health center only once throughout my college years and that was because of my car accident,â€ he said. â€œFriends and family say that Iâ€™m stubborn when it comes to medicine, but I feel the body should heal itself, so I donâ€™t do anything.â€
Mendoza is not the only one in his family turning to the services of the Student Health Center. His older sister, Alejandra Mendoza, also searched for alternatives to an off-campus doctor.
â€œWhen I am sick, I find that the health center is convenient for students with or without insurance,â€ said his sister, a history major.
During the year-and-a-half sheâ€™s been without health coverage, Alejandra Mendoza admitted she overlooked certain medical needs.
â€œIâ€™ve ignored them plenty of times, but there is a certain point and time I have to choose to attend to those needs,â€ she said. â€œBut the cost of medical bills has been higher just for doctor visits compared to having insurance co-pay.â€
The Mendozas are just two of a growing number of uninsured Valley residents. According to the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at Fresno State, there are about 172,000 uninsured adults in the Valley. Due to these numbers, the Central Valley now has significantly more uninsured residents than the rest of the state.
According to â€œHealth Reform 2007: Impact on the Valleyâ€ issued by the institute, the increase in uninsured Valley residents is mainly composed of adults living below the Federal Poverty Level. The report also said figures may be underestimated due to the amount of undocumented workers in this area.
Tanya Vargas certainly relates to this group. Without having legal residency in the United States, Vargas does not qualify for many insurance policies offered in California.
â€œHealth insurance for people in my situation is offered, but they have a high cost,â€ said Vargas, a business administration major. â€œBeing a college student and having many expenses, it is not something that either my parents or I can afford.â€
Though insurance policies are offered on campus through CSU Healthlink, not many Fresno State students have enrolled. Lisa Hannon, a representative of Wells Fargo, said only 110 Fresno State students are enrolled in the program this year. Wells Fargo is the broker for CSU Healthlink insurance.
Rising costs are another factor that kept Vargas from purchasing even a campus insurance policy. Without any kind of aid to alleviate the cost of medical bills, Vargas turned to the Sequoia Community Health Center, a public clinic in Fresno.
â€œThis clinic was recommended to me by a friend, and it provides services to people that do not have insurance or cannot get insurance for whatever reasons,â€ she said. â€œThe clinic does not ask any kind of questions regarding your legal status in the country.â€
Like the Mendozas, Vargas searched for alternative care for her medical needs as the visit to a local doctor seemed out of the question.
Though a recent accident caused Vargas to suffer a head injury, she still hesitated to seek treatment because of her lack of insurance.
â€œOnce a friend of mine looked at it, she said it was necessary for me to go to the hospital because the cut in my head was deep,â€ she said.
Not wanting to take any chances, Vargas finally conceded and visited the emergency room at Fresno Community Hospital.
â€œI received the bill for this about two weeks ago. It is about $2,600,â€ she said. â€œGiving monthly payments, it will probably take me about two years to pay it off.â€
CSU Healthlink offers a range of insurance policies designed for students attending California State University campuses. Information and the new brochure are available through Associated Students and online.