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CA/IL works to inform community college students on health care options


From the News-Gazette:

Groups plan to inform community college students on health care

Wed, 09/04/2013 - 7:00am | Debra Pressey

CHAMPAIGN — Two public interest organizations believe they'll find many of the young adults in Champaign County who don't have health insurance on the campus of Parkland College.

And they plan to let those students know they'll have health coverage options when open enrollment begins Oct. 1 through the new state marketplace, a key part of health care reform.

Citizen Action/Illinois and Champaign County Health Care Consumers plan to be on the Parkland campus at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday to talk to students, the organizations said.

"What we're figuring out is, community colleges are slipping through the cracks," says John Gaudette, state organizing director of Citizen Action/Illinois.

That's because at many community colleges, among them Parkland and Danville Area Community College, health coverage isn't included in student fees.

"Most are just bare bones for student services," Gaudette said.

At the same time, he said, many community college students are facing challenges going to school and working to pay for their tuition, books and sometimes their living expenses.

Students and other young adults can remain covered under their parents' health plan until age 26, but even for those in that age range, some of their parents lack coverage themselves, says Jen Tayabji, a community organizer with Champaign County Health Care Consumers.

For those community college students, "unless they have (coverage) through their jobs, they don't have it," she said.

Nationally, the age group most likely to be uninsured is young adults 18-34.

In Champaign County, of the 18,473 people under age 65 who are uninsured, 26 percent are ages 19-25 and another 30 percent are 26-34, Gaudette said.

Parkland and DACC officials say they don't know how many of their students lack health insurance, but Parkland's Dean of Students Marietta Turner says she suspects many are uninsured.

"Over 70 percent of our students work," she said. "That tells you right there, with many of them working hourly positions, many of them don't have health coverage."

Tom Caulfield, Parkland's director of student life, said the Champaign community college does refer students looking for coverage to an outside health plan through the American College Student Association.

The monthly premiums for the current school year under the ACSC "budget" plan run $97 for a student under age 24, and rise with the enrolled person's age up to $181 for a student 30 and older, according to the ACSC website.

Caulfield said Parkland students pay $8.50 per credit hour in mandatory fees, and he doesn't know how much adding a student health plan would increase fees. However, he said, Parkland hasn't entertained adding a student health plan to keep its fees in the affordable range.

Turner said she thinks students need the information they'll be getting from the two organizations about open enrollment, and she hopes the event on campus will spread the word.

DACC marketing director Lara Conklin said the college doesn't inquire about whether its students are insured unless they're athletes, but a majority of the students are employed.

DACC isn't planning any information sessions for its students on marketplace health plan open enrollment, she said.

Health Care Consumers and Citizen Action/Illinois are targeting Parkland because many students don't know open enrollment begins in less than month and what their options are, Tayabji said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, nearly everyone must have health coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014 or pay a penalty.

Coverage through the state marketplace will offer subsidies to people with lower incomes, and Tayabji said many students will be eligible for subsidized coverage through the marketplace or no-cost premiums through the state's Medicaid expansion.

"I think definitely there are going to be a lot of students who are going to be Medicaid-eligible," she said.

Presentation planned at Parkland

Parkland College students can hear about their options to sign up for health coverage in the new Illinois marketplace, a key part of health care reform, at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Champaign County Health Care Consumers and Citizen Action/Illinois will present information on the Parkland campus, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., C, at the bus stop near Building G.