Insurance review will involve student input

Administrators are promising to include students in its annual review of health insurance coverage, following backlash for automatically charging international, medical and health science students for a new policy earlier this year.

Student Association members Shirley Hsiesh and Shashwat Gautam have led the pushback against the mandated insurance plan, which went into place this year, and said they will form a student committee to be part of the University’s annual review of its health care coverage.

Students criticized the new coverage requirements, which apply to about 4,000 students, because the University did not communicate the plan with students before it went into effect.

Gautam, a graduate student from India, said he wants future policies to be approved by the SA’s Senate or by a select group of SA leaders before it is officially mandated to students.

“GW administration should not have signed a contract with [a] health insurance company without keeping in view the needs of students,” Gautam said.

This summer, the 4,000 students for whom GW mandates insurance were automatically billed for a $2,200 health care plan modeled after the Affordable Care Act, even if they were already paying for comparable coverage.

Hsiesh and Gautam outlined their complaints, citing a lack of support from GW when appealing the mandate, in a 17-page report sent to University administrators.

Associate Dean of Students Mark Levine, who oversees wellness issues, said student opinion will be important to help improve next year’s plan for students.

“We look forward to an ongoing dialogue as we approach spring enrollment for new international students and begin planning for next year,” Levine said. “The SA and other students’ input and willingness to participate in next year’s planning are a great asset as we look ahead.”

The plan’s coverage this year, in addition to traditional services, requires full contraception and preventative coverage for health concerns like depression, alcoholism and drug addiction. It also covers medication costs up to $100,000 and provides a $2 million injury insurance.

The University will also hire a graduate student next year to act as a liaison between students and the provider, Aetna, so students will not have to call the company’s reportedly unhelpful and impatient representatives, Gautam said.

“It’s a small victory for us, but we’re very happy with it,” Hsieh said.

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