As lawmakers in Washington work toward a national health care overhaul, University Health Service officials are discussing the restructuring of students’ insurance plans for the next five years.
The Michigan Student Assembly’s Student Health Insurance Committee and UHS Student Insurance officials are currently in the process of deciding to either revamp or replace the health insurance plan offered through the University, which has been affected by rising health care costs, despite University efforts to stem those increases.
The student health insurance premium went up to $1,000 in the early 2000s, dissuading students from buying the University’s option, Robert Winfield, the director of UHS said. As the premium price continued to rise, healthy people continued to drop out of the plan, leaving a group of policyholders who caused the number of claims per individual to increase.
“It progressively became more and more expensive until it got into the $2,000 range,” Winfield said.
The University’s current policy, which is covered by the health insurance provider Aetna, costs students an annual premium totaling $2,490.
Before the national health care bills were being seriously negotiated in Congress, UHS administrators and student officials on MSA’s SHIC had worked extensively to create a new policy that would require all students to come to campus with health insurance.
“But then the financial crisis came, and there wasn’t sufficient financial aid to do that,” Winfield said.
Economic restrictions coupled with the passage of the House health care bill have led University officials to postpone efforts to increase healthy enrollment in the Aetna plan and require all students to be insured.
“While I was pushing hard a year ago for required level health insurance for students, now I recommend to wait and see what happens,” Winfield said. “It may just be something that is out of our hands.”
Whether the ultimate health care bill will mandate all citizens to have health insurance has yet to be determined, but if it does, it would greatly affect the University’s negotiations for student health care plans, Karen Klever, student insurance manager at UHS said.
“Student insurance people are sort of on hold in essence to what the government’s plans are going to do and how it’s going to affect it,” Klever said.
Anticipating several different outcomes, Klever said her office is “keeping an open mind” but is not doing anything differently during this year’s negotiations.
The uncertain nature of the bill leaves many unknowns for student insurance plans in the 2010-2011 school year, potentially making current negotiations obsolete.
“This insurance has to be effective for fall 2010, and I have to have alternatives available for the students, and so I can’t put things on hold for what might be,” Klever said.
She said her office’s current strategy is to establish a plan that’s “flexible” so that it could be re-adjusted easily to fit any changes that may come in the upcoming months with the national health care legislation.
It is still unknown what, if any, components of student insurance policies will change, or if existing plans will be replaced completely by a public option.
Despite the uncertainty of next year’s insurance plan, Klever said Michigan Blue Cross Blue Shield entered into the bidding for the first time this year. Continued corporate interest demonstrates that private insurance companies — many of which are directly involved in the creation of the bill — are not concerned that the legislation will affect their student plans with universities adversely, she said.
Students covered under the University’s current student insurance plan receive the same UHS benefits that students under their parents’ insurance have, in addition to coverage under the nationwide Aetna network. The policy covers doctor and specialist visits and medical testing procedures, among other services.
“It’s a very good policy, it’s a very rich policy,” Klever said.
Other unique benefits of the plan are that it doesn’t require policyholders to be full-time students, and it offers inclusive coverage for students’ spouses, according to Klever.
“We don’t exclude anyone who is working towards their degree, ” she said.