Applying for healthcare is one of the many responsibilities for young adults. Around the BC campus, there are brochures containing information on different healthcare plans to help students explore all of their options. On Jan. 28 in C212, members of outreach services Catherine Thruelsen and Zak Yusef organized a free healthcare information session with Giselle Zapata-Garcia, the supervisor of community engagement at Molina Healthcare.
During the session, Garcia provided information about the different healthcare options that most students qualify for. In Washington, students can apply for Apple Health, which was previously known as Medicaid prior to the Affordable Care Act. Washington Apple Health is a free plan that according to Garcia, “most students qualify for.” On the Washington health plan finder website, students can determine the right health coverage for their needs and qualifications.
At BC, Student Programs also tries to share information about healthcare plans to students. Thruelsen stated, “Our mission is to get the word out about BC and to support current BC students. We want to provide information sessions for students that will be beneficial.” Thruelsen also shared the importance of having this session as quickly as possible: “Now that we’re moving into the second tax year where a lack of insurance will result in a federal fine in your taxes, it’s very important for students to know about the different health plan options.” According to healthcare.gov, the fee in 2015 will either be 2 percent of the annual household income or $325 for each person per year. The penalty will increase annually. In 2016, a person without health coverage will have to pay $695 or 2.5 percent of their income.
Students who may not qualify for free health coverage should apply before Feb. 15. According to Yusef, when applying for healthcare, “the providers will have an open window, when people can register for the program.” Thruelson added, “it will close on Feb. 15. If you qualify for free healthcare coverage, you can apply at anytime, but if you do not qualify, then you’ll have to apply within that window or you’ll lose your opportunity.”
Since last year, the application and website for the Washington health plan finder has been updated and many bugs have been fixed. For example, last year there was an issue that prevented some students under 19 from applying to Apple Healthcare. According to Garcia, “The health benefit exchange is constantly fixing glitches that they come across and that’s why they temporarily put the site down.” Garcia also stated:
“There were a lot of issues for those without social security numbers and this still persists to be an issue, but with help from a certified application counselor, we’re able to apply a work-around process. Definitely, there were a lot of issues with mixed households and understanding who you were supposed to enter into your household composition, but I think that has gotten clarified more.”
Furthermore, Garcia shared, “we need to be well-informed so we can make well-informed decisions about our healthcare and it is the law now that all individuals have health insurance in the United
Garcia’s work does not end with BC. Being a supervisor for community engagement at Molina Healthcare, Garcia plans on visiting other schools to inform more students about different healthcare options:
“We are going to several different schools. Some schools are just choosing to have us at a table and some students can come up and ask us questions and other schools are asking us to do presentations.”
With healthcare becoming more accessible and affordable for everyone, many more students are planning on applying. Garcia, Thruelsen and Yusef hope to help spread information about the various healthcare options that are available to students. According to Garcia, “There is a really big movement now that’s trying to inform students and the public about healthcare and how to apply for the different health plans.”