University to offer new health insurance plan

Monday, September 2, 2019 - 7:15pm

The University recently announced a new student health insurance plan offered by the Blue Care Network of Michigan.

The University recently announced a new student health insurance plan offered by the Blue Care Network of Michigan. Buy this photo
Max Kuang/Daily

Starting this academic year, the University of Michigan will offer a new student health insurance plan. The new plan is offered by the Blue Care Network of Michigan, a change from the AETNA plan offered in previous years. The plan spans all three University campuses. 

According to Laurie Burchett, administrative manager of the University Health Service, students are not automatically re-enrolled in the new plan, and must register under the new plan during an open enrollment period. University students have three chances to enroll in the new plan to earn coverage in 2020. 

The first open enrollment period ends September 30, and will cover care from Aug. 24, 2019 to Aug. 23, 2020. The second enrollment period covers Jan. 1, 2020 to Aug. 23, 2020, while the third enrollment extends from May 1, 2020 to Aug. 23, 2020. Each enrollment period charges a different fee. 

Burchett said the new plan includes the benefits from the AETNA plan — such as emergency room visits and an annual vision exam — but for a better price. 

“What we said is ‘we want the same plan that we had last year,’ in other words with the same benefits, but we were looking for a better price, and so Blue Care Network just did it for less than the other insurance companies did,” Burchett said.

Under the new plan, students must use a Blue Care Network provider in the state of Michigan, and a Blue Cross provider outside the state, in order to be considered “in-network.” Essentially, if the student wants to receive coverage in the state of Michigan they must use a Blue Care Network provider but outside of Michigan must use Blue Cross. Still, Burchett doesn’t anticipate this will cause problems, since the company is nationwide and a big company.

The Blue Care Network full-year plan for domestic students is $1,709 annually with a $100 deductible for in-network and out-of-network care, whereas the AETNA plan charged a $2,084 annual fee with a $500 deductible.

However, the new plan could prove more expensive if a student required costly medical care. For example, under the new plan, the out-of-pocket maximum a student might pay would be $3,500 in-network and $3,500 out-of-network for a possible total of $7,000. The maximum was $2,500 under the AETNA plan. 

Engineering senior Gabriel Shlain uses the University-sponsored student health insurance. Shlain said the new plan works for him as a relatively healthy person, but it may hurt those with expensive medical conditions. 

“I assume that there are definitely other students here who have, probably outstanding medical conditions that I’m not aware of, and they might need more personalized care and more costly care that might cost more now with this plan, but for me that’s just not the case,” Shlain said. “So unless something actually bad were to happen to me or I run into a serious health condition, I prefer the plan right now, because for at least a yearly physical, testing, bloodwork, it gets the job done.”

Benefits of the new plan include prescription drug coverage, clinic visits, mental health, annual vision exam, hospitalization, emergency room visits, ambulance service, dental coverage and more. 

According to the Domestic Student Health Insurance Plan website, the plan was negotiated by a Central Student Government student health insurance committee. 

CSG President Ben Gerstein said the plan serves as a good option for students and is excited to see how the plan works for international students, specifically.

“I think the plan seems like a good option for students in terms of what it offers,” Gerstein said. “It covers dental, which I know is something UHS is excited about. I believe the significant change was that they put the international student plan and the domestic student plan under the same umbrella. I’m interested to see what the effects of that will be, and obviously communicate with international students to make sure they feel the UHS plan adequately covers their needs.”

Around 1,600 students were enrolled in the new plan as of Aug. 27, while around 2,900 were enrolled in the AETNA plan during the third enrollment period, previously. Burchett said she expects the number of students enrolled in the new plan to increase throughout the year as more students hear about it or age out of their parents’ insurance plan.