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Uninsured Rate for ‘Young Invincibles’ Dips Below 10% at State Universities

On Wednesday, researchers released poll results that show dramatically low rates of uninsured students at California State University campuses, including a steep drop in the number of Latino students without insurance.

The seven polled CSU campuses have an estimated 7% overall rate of uninsured students, according to Walter Zelman, director of the CSU Health Insurance Education Project, which works to sign up uninsured students.

This is a population — the so-called “young invincibles” — that traditionally has high rates of the uninsured. Zelman pointed out they also happen to be the healthy, lower-cost enrollees that health insurance plans and Covered California would love to have in their patient mix.

“In a sense, the population they need to reach the most might be the easiest to reach, not the hardest,” Zelman said.

Traditionally, the Latino population also has been difficult to reach, but according to the poll of CSU students, the number of uninsured Latinos dropped substantially, Zelman said.

For example, at Cal State Los Angeles, the percentage of uninsured Latino students fell from 41% in October 2013 to 26% in April 2014 (after the first Covered California open enrollment period). And by February 2015 (after the second open enrollment period deadline of Feb. 15), that number went down to 10%.

“That was the most stunning number we have here,” Zelman said. “That was a shocker.”

Zelman said he’s been evaluating the rates of uninsured Latinos for many years, so he knows how much higher the uninsured rates are among Latinos.

“The history of all the data show Latinos are so much more likely to be uninsured,” Zelman said. “At one point, it was 40% in Los Angeles County. And if you add in young Latinos, that percentage rises. So you have a heavily uninsured population, and that rate is heavily down, by 75% in some cases. I’ve never seen a number like that.”

Some highlights of the February poll:

  • The percentage of uninsured students on two CSU southern California campuses may have reached all-time lows; Cal State L.A. and Cal State Long Beach dropped to 9%, down from 19% at Cal State L.A. and 15% at Cal State Long Beach in April 2014;
  • Overall, at seven CSU campuses, about 7% of CSU students remain uninsured, compared to an estimated 25% uninsured in October 2013;
  • The overall percentage of uninsured Latino students declined even more sharply, from 19% in 2014 to 12% in 2015; and
  • At Cal State L.A. the percentage of uninsured Latino students fell even more sharply, from 41% in 2013 down to 26% in 2014 and further down to 10% in 2015.

In terms of possible policy changes based on the changes at these CSU campuses, Zelman said the state’s two-year colleges might be a perfect target.

“I would look hard at whether or not we’ve effectively reached out to community college campuses. If I were Covered California, I would want to make sure I get the message out there,” Zelman said. “This young, low-income population, they’re on college campuses. That’s the most gettable and most easily enrolled population, and they’re just out there to be enrolled.”

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