The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been met with a lot questions. The California State University Health Insurance Education Project hopes to answer questions for Fresno State students.
The website HealthCare.gov received criticism across the nation since its Oct. 1 launch.
As of Thursday, the White House said nearly 700,000 applications for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act are complete.
Administration officials have spent much of their time since its launch responding to complaints and finger-pointing from the contractors who built the troubled website.
The contractors for the website blamed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services while testifying before a House committee on Thursday. On a call with reporters, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials explained what went wrong.
“Due to a compressed time frame, this system just wasn’t tested enough, especially for high volumes,” said spokeswoman Julie Bataille.
Bataille cited the “complexity of the system” for why three years to make the website was not enough time.
“Obviously, when you put all of those pieces in place over a period of time, I think it is no surprise to anyone that we are operating under a compressed time frame to get all of that done and in order to do the rigorous testing that was needed,” she said.
On Oct. 1, Fresno’s Covered California held its official opening ceremony at Fresno State, encouraging everyone to apply for health insurance coverage by the Jan. 1, 2014 deadline or risk penalties.
The project is an outreach and education funded by Covered California and coordinated locally by Fresno State’s Department of Health.
“Our goal as campus coordinators is to do education and outreach to Fresno State students about the new health insurance options that are available,” said Laura Calderon, one of two Fresno State campus coordinators.
The project was launched through a $1.25 million grant given to CSU Los Angeles by Covered California. With the grant, CSU Los Angeles hired two campus coordinators for each of the 23 campuses.
Fresno State students have been very open to it, Calderon said.
A spring survey conducted by the American College Health Association indicated 20 percent of Fresno State Students did not have health insurance, Calderon said.
Calderon and campus coordinator Diana Valdovinos – both enrolled in the university’s master’s of public health program – have reached out to students through 10-minute clasroom presentations and Q&A sessions.
“It is very informative,” she said. “It is just to give students information. They leave us with their contact information so that they can sign up and get updates.
“We’re also giving them the tools and letting them know if you do need health insurance then you need to do your research and get on the Covered California website and put in all your information to see what you qualify for.”
She said it is important for people to be covered by a health insurance plan and the plans include 10 health benefits:
- Physician services
- Emergency services
- Maternity and new born care
- Mental health and substance use disorder services
- Prescription drug rehabilitation services and devices
- Laboratory services
- Preventative and wellness services
- Chronic diseases management
- Paediatric services
Another goal for the project is to recruit endorsers.
“With those endorsers, we asked if they could email the information out to their listserv so we could reach thousands of people,” Calderon said.
Their endorsers at Fresno State are the Services for Students with Disabilities, the Henry Madden Library, the Health Center and the Department of Public Health.
One of the most popular questions that students ask Calderon and Valdovinos after presentations is, “Does my financial aid count as my annual income?”
Yes, Calderon said, but student loans do not count towards that because students are expected to pay the loans back in the future.
Students also have wanted to know if their current emergency room bills would be covered if they apply for Covered California, and Calderon said they would not.
Dillon Morgan, a Fresno State senior, was raised on welfare and believed that Covered California could give him benefits that he currently does not have.
“I was a MediCal kid,” Morgan said. “Welfare, MediCal, all that. When I turned 21, I lost my MediCal care so I don’t have any right now. So it’s a program that I’ve thought about looking into but haven’t yet.”