Cost, not 'invincibility,' keeps young people from buying health insurance: Cal State survey

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Cal State University poll released Monday suggests that the cost of insurance - and not perceived 'invincibility' - is the primary reason why some 18-to-34 year olds - the so-called "Young Invincibles" - are not signing up for health coverage.

The survey of students at three CSU campuses indicated that about 30 percent of Cal State students remain uninsured.

Nearly 80 percent of the uninsured respondents said they didn’t have coverage because they couldn’t afford it; only 7 percent said they were uninsured because they didn’t believe they needed insurance. 

The Young Invincibles are considered crucial to the success of the Affordable Care Act, because as a largely healthy population, their participation in the insurance pool will help keep premiums down. Since open enrollment began last October at Covered California, the state's insurance marketplace, Young Invincibles have made up about 25 percent of those who enroll in a health plan - which is about their portion of the overall population.

Another 4 percent who responded to the Cal State survey said they wanted health insurance but had been rejected in the past by an insurance provider. Under the ACA,  insurance firms may no longer deny coverage due to preexisting medical conditions.

The poll also found that a substantial majority of both insured and uninsured students would be willing to pay only $100 or less a month for health insurance. That’s about $50 less than the cheapest plan offered in Los Angeles County. 

But based on CSU financial data, university officials found that up to 75 percent of students live in households with incomes that would qualify either for premium reductions and other financial assistance that would reduce the cost of their health coverage, or for Medi-Cal, the state's insurance program for the poor.  

The university pointed out that in a number of cases, students could end up paying less than $100 a month for the most inexpensive health plan available through Covered California.  It used a fictional 23-year-old single student from L.A.'s 90032 zip code as an example. If that student makes $18,000 a year, he would be eligible for aid that would cut his monthly premium to $14. If he makes $21,000 a year, he could pay $45 a month, and if he made $25,000 a year, he could pay $93 a month . 

The university’s Health Insurance Education Project  (HIEP) conducted the poll of 836 CSU students at the university's Los Angeles,  San Jose and Fresno campuses. 

The HEIP program is funded by a grant from Covered California to educate students in the CSU system about their insurance options under the federal health law.