Health Center looking to educate uninsured students

Celina Hutchens

Cover the Uninsured Week is a national campaign that focuses attention on the need to be insured and for secure health care coverage for Americans – and its message is not being lost at Kent State.

Mary Reeves, director of DeWeese Health Center, is active in the campaign taking place this week and said she is working to teach how important having life insurance is.

“Twenty percent of students at Kent State aren’t covered by insurance,” Reeves said. “It’s a catastrophic event (such as a major accident or health scare) that might cause students to declare bankruptcy.”

Cover the Uninsured Week is a nationwide effort to urge U.S. leaders to make health coverage a top priority. This program encourages communities to get involved by sending an e-mail to Congressmen expressing the need for better, more affordable health care, she said.

Reeves said some colleges have a mandatory insurance policy where students have to show proof of insurance before being allowed to register for classes. She said she wants to make students who don’t have health insurance are aware of the options they have. The university provides two different companies to work with students to provide affordable health care, both for long- and short-term care.

“Each year we’ve had some students in critical care, and they were fortunate to have insurance,” she said. “It would have been an exorbitant price if they didn’t have it, and some people (students) are only covered until they are 25.”

Reeves said she found it strange that car insurance is required by state law, but health insurance is not. She also stressed the need for students to keep their insurance after they graduate.

“Isn’t our health as important as car insurance?” she said. “Massachusetts is currently trying to mandate health insurance in the state so it, too, is a law.

“Students go without health care after they graduate until they find a job. It’s really important to keep insurance after graduation.”

She also said the Health Center would assist students to see if they are eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. She said the 250,000 people who are eligible don’t use it because they don’t know how to register.

Nick Sukalac, coordinator of University Health Services information, is in charge of student insurance and billing at the university. He said Kent State is involved with Cover the Uninsured Week by providing students with information on options for choosing the right health care.

“We put up information throughout the Health Center where students can talk with us about options,” Sukalac said. “We work with students on what they can afford and need and give them the best advice.”

Both Sukalac and Reeves said it’s less of an out-of-pocket expense to students who are seeking care earlier.

“The primary goal is education and to make people think,” he said. “When we see students, it isn’t until they have a serious illness, until they realize they need insurance.”

Sukalac said students could come in and ask questions and look at different insurance plans. He said most policies could be customized so students wouldn’t have to pay such a high premium.

Cover the Uninsured Week helps people get enrolled in public coverage programs if they are eligible. Hundreds of enrollment events will be held at hospitals, care centers and community centers nationwide to provide low-cost or free coverage to those who qualify.

Reeves said she has worked in health care and has seen the negative effects on someone without health care. She said most people who don’t have insurance didn’t seek care until they were critically ill.

“It was mostly young people and the working poor,” she said. “They have a job, but no insurance.

“To have health care debt would be a catastrophe, and I don’t see how you can work your way out from that.”

For more information on student health care, contact Nick Sukalac at 330-672-8194 or, for information on Cover the Uninsured Week, visit www.CoverTheUninsuredWeek.org.

Contact medicine reporter Celina Hutchens at [email protected]