Nearly 10 months after Congress passed the historic health care reform bill, some of the initial changes enacted by the legislation are beginning to take effect at the University.

The most significant change for the majority of students and University employees is the part of the law that requires insurance companies to allow individual under age 26 to remain on their parents’ health plans — regardless of their status as a dependent or student.

Robert Winfield, the University’s chief health officer and director of the University Health Service, said about 5 percent of undergraduate students and 10 percent of graduate students currently don’t have health insurance. The new health care legislation benefits those students by offering more complete coverage in the event of accidents or serious illness. However the services UHS offers won’t be impacted, he said.

“What has been a problem is that students who are 22 or 23 might not have insurance under their parents,” Winfield said. “We (once) had a student with an infection and the bill was $15,000.”

Laurie Burchett, student insurance manager at UHS, said she is interested in seeing how many of the approximately 1,400 students currently on the University’s domestic insurance plan will not submit payment for the winter 2011 semester since they can now remain covered by their parents’ insurance.

“A lot of people’s parents don’t have health insurance, and I’ve heard a lot of companies raised the rate so that it would be more expensive to put their child back on their insurance,” Burchett said.

For University employees who receive health care coverage through the University, Burchett said the process of putting an employee’s child back on the University’s health insurance plan is simple. Employees are required to fill out a form requesting to put a child on the plan and provide a birth certificate and submit it to the benefits office.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said this specific provision of the health care law was purposely created for college-aged individuals.

“Until you become a little more stable in your job after leaving college, the president and others believe one of the best ways to provide that stability is to continue on your parent’s health care insurance plan,” Gibbs said. “It will make a tremendous difference on many young Americans who would otherwise take a big risk being out in the world and not having the health care insurance that they need.”

Gibbs said during the call that the U.S. House of Representative’s imminent move to repeal the law doesn’t hold much weight since the repeal will most likely not pass in the Democratic controlled U.S. Senate. The House approved the repeal yesterday with a 245-189 vote, the Associated Press reported.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the legislative impact of (Wednesday’s) vote is basically symbolic in its gestures,” Gibbs said. “And quite honesty Republicans in the House of Representatives have said as much. This is not a serious legislative effort. This is intended to send a signal to their base voters.”

For students in need of health insurance, the University offers a domestic plan and a separate international plan that is required for all international students studying at the University.

Since the domestic plan isn’t required, premiums are significantly higher than those of the international plan, which is $99 dollars per month compared to $224.83 per month for the domestic plan.

“Unfortunately (the domestic plan is) a bit expensive because many young people don’t buy health insurance,” Winfield said. “There’s adverse selection so the price goes up because it’s all based on the types of claims submitted.”

According to Burchett, the domestic plan is available to any University student taking at least one credit. The plan is typically purchased by students whose parents don’t have health insurance or students who don’t qualify for coverage under their parents’ plans.

Even for students who are on their parents’ health insurance plans, there may be a discrepancy between the coverage out-of-state students receive at home and the coverage they have in Ann Arbor. According to Winfield, a student who has “great” health insurance in California may not be eligible for the same level of coverage in Michigan. Therefore, purchasing the University’s domestic plan may sometimes result in better coverage, he said.

Though the University’s health insurance plans must comply with any changes in federal law for 2011, Burchett said the University isn’t likely to have to make many adjustments to either its domestic or international plans for students.

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