Getting Covered to Stay in School

By Guest Blogger

This blog post was written by Maryann Haytmanek, Project Director for Benefits Access at Northampton Community College.

At Northampton Community College, we understand that access to health insurance coverage is crucial to support our students’ success, and we are committed to ensuring that our students complete their certificate or degree programs. This is why we are working to get the word out to students about their new health insurance options!

Northampton is part of several national efforts to assist students in achieving academic excellence as well as to address non-academic issues that may impede their progress. We are participating in the Benefits Access for College Completion initiative, a combined project of the Center for Law and Social Policy and the American Association of Community Colleges that helps low-income students to determine their eligibility for—and access to —public benefits. Northampton has a history of working to ensure low-income students have access to much-needed public benefits as a means of temporarily supplementing their income to increase college retention and completion. As we began to ask students who are applying for public benefits whether they have any kind of health insurance, we discovered that half of the students we talked to had no health insurance coverage. This has been true for a variety of students: young, single, traditional-age students, older students who lost their health insurance when they lost their jobs, displaced homemakers who could not afford a COBRA payment, and students of all ages who worked in jobs that offered no health coverage.

Lack of health insurance keeps our students from attending classes when they have not sought medical care for a minor condition that has led to a major health crisis. Lack of health insurance results in students dropping out of class because they need a job to pay off a one-time emergency room bill due to a crisis – an auto accident, a fall from a ladder, an illness contracted from a reaction to a medication, or any other unforeseen event.

We know that it is much easier for students to attend class and actively participate, do assignments, meet with study groups, excel on exams, and volunteer with student organizations when they are healthy and unencumbered by medical debts.

What are we doing to raise awareness about the new affordable and comprehensive health insurance options? We are working in concert with Enroll America and its grassroots, consumer-focused campaign: Get Covered America. We are:

  • Offering information sessions for our students.
  • Asking students to tell their stories.
  • Providing opportunities for Q & A so that our students have accurate information regarding the new health insurance options available to them, and not just information they may have heard in passing or through any number of biased sources.

Here is our outreach plan to ensure our message is heard by as many students as possible:

  • We plan to present six on-campus information sessions between October and December 2013. For one week in October, November, and December, we will distribute Get Covered America commitment cards.
  • We will staff tables at all ten buildings with information about how to contact local navigators and assisters, and how to sign up for health insurance. 
  • Students, staff from a variety of departments including from our health center (from support staff to vice-presidents), faculty, and volunteers from student clubs and organizations are all part of the effort to educate and help our students to get enrolled in health coverage – and to stay in school.

We are proud to be part of the Get Covered America campaign’s efforts and plan to enroll our Northampton students. We intend to get them covered!


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