Written by Laurie McLaughlin
Hundreds of surveys were passed out to participants at Insurance Day in October in order to gather information about how well students understood the Affordable Care Act (ACA), how they felt about mandatory health insurance and whether students thought the ACA would benefit them.
“I was surprised at how uninformed students are about the ACA,” says researcher Catalina Botero Soto ’13 (MBA-finance) about the survey results. She conducted the survey and analyzed the results along with Norberto Namkoong ’13 (M.S.-accountancy).
“It was also interesting to see that while many people are not aware of the specifics of the ACA, they still have very strong opinions on whether or not this law benefits them,” adds Botero Soto.
By design, the funding for ACA, which is often referred to as “Obamacare,” relies in part on healthy young people who buy insurance (and do not need to use it very often to cover their own health-care costs) to offset the cost of insurance for the older and less-healthy population.
“It’s important to understand that for the ACA to be successful, young adults need to sign up. Otherwise, premiums are expected to rise,” says Namkoong. “I believe that the more informed students are, the higher the chances of them signing up will be.
“The government should take a more active role in informing students about prices, penalties and options before the March 31 sign-up deadline.”
The research study conducted by Botero Soto and Namkoong was one of several programs supported by Mihaylo College’s Center for Insurance Studies focusing on combined research for the insurance industry and consumers. Graduate students work as project managers in partnership with industry mentors on a number of initiatives in a variety of areas, such as earthquake coverage, auto insurance and health care.
“By participating in these projects, students gain important experience in research and consulting while networking within the industry,” says Weili Lu, the center’s director. “This ACA research was an ambitious project in terms of the numbers of surveys handed out, but our students are very motivated.”
The surveys were distributed on the CSUF campus, and about 600 returned surveys were evaluated.
“We found that students in general are not well informed about the ACA. Even those who are not insured have a very superficial knowledge of what the ACA entails,” says Botero Soto. “I enjoyed interpreting the results. It was interesting to go from raw, meaningless data to a clear picture of how students perceive Obamacare.”
Conducting the research project provided both Botero Soto and Namkoong with valuable experience. “I learned how to write more effective surveys,” says Namkoong. “We sent out three different versions of the survey. Each time we got back the results, we noted that there were ways to improve the design of the answers.” He was also surprised that a minority of respondents were uninsured.
“But the most interesting part was talking with industry professionals and learning their point of view,” says Namkoong.
Botero Soto agrees. “Participating in a project like this opens the door not only to new knowledge but to professionals and organizations that are involved in health care,” she says. “It provides a great opportunity to strengthen analytical skills, expand your network of contacts and work closely with professors in the school.”
According to Lu, the next step in this project is to inform the administrators of Obamacare and health-care providers about the lack of knowledge about ACA among college students.
“We also aim to ensure that our students are educated about what kind of benefits they may receive and what the costs to them will be,” says Lu.
Research will continue, says Botero Soto. “This was the initial stage in which we wanted to know how informed students are about the ACA and what their general perceptions are about it. The next step would be to evaluate actual enrollment rates of students through the health exchanges versus their willingness to pay penalties.”
The timing of the research is important, adds Namkoong. “Our goal is to keep updating the research as soon as possible so that our findings are relevant.”
To review the survey results, visit The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Students.
Visit the Center for Insurance Studies to learn more about their programs and courses.