Health insurance plan sees little change despite student pushback

The University’s year-old health insurance plan, which is mandated for about 3,000 students, will remain largely unchanged next year despite promises from administrators to adjust the plan based on students’ concerns .

Senior Associate Dean of Students Mark Levine said the coverage is mandated by the Affordable Care Act, which he said also requires the University to provide basic coverage of depression, alcoholism and drug addiction as well as offering $100,000 in medication costs and a $2 million injury insurance.

Starting last fall, international students and those in the medical, nursing and public health schools – who are required to have health insurance – paid at least $2,200 for the University plan, plus more for family members. Students fought back and said the overly comprehensive coverage caused an undue financial burden, and should have been announced before the costs showed up on students’ tuition bills.

Students were also concerned because the policy continued through the end of the summer, though graduating students who were moving back to their home countries said they could find less expensive coverage there.

Still, Levine called the policy’s benefits “great,” and said they were both “comprehensive and economic.”

“Those many students with medical conditions that require constant treatment, or students requiring ongoing pharmaceutical support, will need coverage until they can find a job or their new insurance covers the condition,” Levine said.

Administrators also said while the Affordable Care Act would have led to a 4 percent increase of taxes and fees, the University negotiated with its health-care provider, Aetna, for a 3 percent increase, at an added cost of $58 per year.

The University will overhaul the plan students can purchase voluntarily, letting students enroll annually or by the semester. Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said the newly added flexibility, however, will come with an increased price – $500 more than the mandatory plan per academic year. About 1,400 students enrolled in the voluntary plan this year.

Students on the voluntary plan can pay a total sum of about $2,700 or $1,095 for each semester, with the summer costing an additional $529.

“That flexibility will actually cost them a little bit more, but that flexibility will also give them the opportunity to say, ‘You know, I only want it for the fall,'” Konwerski said.

Student Health Service will also add an insurance coordinator to cut down on confusion that students expressed after they were hit with the charges. The company took months this fall to acknowledge appeals from dozens of students and their family members who already had insurance plans.

In October, the administrators promised to take students’ concerns into consideration with a student and staff committee dedicated to discussing health and wellness issues on campus. Earlier in the year, Student Association leaders submitted a 17-page proposal that outlined improvements, like bringing an Aetna representative to campus to address students’ complaints.

“This will be a great benefit when it comes to direct service for students, but also behind the scenes working with our partners around campus as well as our Aetna colleagues,” Levine said in an email.

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