Author: Marty Cramer
The administration at Occidental acknowledges the high cost of health insurance for students, and, in an effort to counteract this, provides more affordable plans for students and employees.
For safety and liability reasons, the university maintains a policy that requires all students to be insured.
Occidental’s comprehensive coverage plans do not, however, necessarily reflect the state of health care in the greater Los Angeles area. In fact, many Californians do not have health insurance.
“You have to be insured at Oxy,” Director of Student Health Services at Emmons Health Center Richard Youngblood said. “Buried within the tuition fees is the health insurance fee.”
The health insurance fee, broken into two separate sections (Sickness and Injury), is $687 annually. Youngblood estimated that comparable coverage outside of Occidental would cost about $3,000.
Occidental requires proof of health insurance if a student elects to opt out of the sickness insurance.
The administration does not, however, inquire into a family’s financial or insurance status if the student remains with the full Occidental plan.
Therefore, the school does not have a record on the number of students who are insured beyond the school coverage.The university offers its employees a variety of benefits packages, including choices from different HMOs.
“For what you pay for [Occidental’s benefits package], it’s exceptional,” Facilities Spectral Trades Supervisor Mark Niccum, said.
“You can cover the whole family here for a minimal price each month.” Niccum added that businesses he has worked with in the past were not so generous.
Although Occidental attempts to provide adequate, affordable coverage for employees and students, the university cannot bypass the policies of insurance providers.
Whether covered by a business or personal health insurance plan, families cannot support dependents past age 18 unless the dependent is a full time student, according to Kaiser, Blue Shield and Aetna.
“In CA dependents are covered up to (not including) age 19. If the Dependent is a full time student, they are covered through (including) 22 (with proof of student status),” Aetna posts on its Web site.
Kaiser and Blue Shield follow similar guidelines, and hypothetical plan quotes from these three major health care providers reveal that basic plans will cost students approximately one to two thousand dollars annually.
As the recession worsens, many students and families can no longer afford heath care coverage. The Kaiser Family Foundation examined California’s coverage rates, reporting that 6,593,160 people are currently uninsured, 18 percent of whom are eighteen years old or under.
Free clinics provide an alternative to expensive hospital care, and those with no feasible alternatives flock to these havens for help.
However, according to the L.A. Times, these California clinics are rapidly losing funding – money that normally is based on donations and government dollars. But, the number of patients continues to grow regardless of financial constraints.
The Hollywood Sunset Free Clinic now cares for a patient population of more than 87,000. It also treats an average of 1,740 patients per week, according to the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF).
The CHCF is a philanthropic organization that promotes improvements in health care delivery and financing. However, the Foundation adds that free clinics may become something of the past due to monetary difficulties.
“Community clinics are a vital part of California’s health care safety net,” the CHCF Web site states. But, “[Only] one-fourth of clinics have a strong bottom line, most operate at or under [the]break even [point], and these figures are worsening.”
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