With changes to health plan regulations and the Affordable Care Act by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the supplemental insurance policy that has been offered to students will no longer be available as of next year.
The supplemental insurance plan, which costs students 250 dollars per year, was used by about 18 percent of Gustavus students this year. The plan is mainly meant to help students who have high deductibles but also helps students who have no coverage at all. A number of the students who do receive the plan simply didn’t look at the choice to deny it. The insurance is given through the consortium, a non-profit company that 130 colleges are part of.
“After the consortium sent a letter to the HHS asking if the new regulations could change for the small group of people that make the intentional choice for coverage, they responded with a no,” Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Ken Westphal said.
Gustavus was left with a few choices to pick from for next year’s policy.
“We [Gustavus] could offer the current supplemental insurance policy that would cost 250 dollars, but would make it non-compliant with federal regulations; offer a new supplemental insurance policy that is compliant with the new regulations but starts at 1,500 dollars and would go up each year until the HHS phases in an amount limit; offer an insurance plan that students elect to sign up for that is more money and wouldn’t help the full need students; or offer no insurance policy, but get students the resources they need to find an insurance plan,” Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Life JoNes VanHecke said.
Health Services sees about half of the Gustavus population for appointments each year. At least 100 students that come into Health Services don’t have any insurance coverage other than the supplemental insurance policy. The main goal now is to make sure that Gustavus students who need an insurance policy can find one and get covered.
“Gustavus is not licensed to sell insurance so we will provide resources for students and help them as much as possible,” Westphal said.
“Students need to be proactive and ask for help. You need to make a plan before August 14, 2012 to make sure that you are covered. There are a lot of great resources out there and you need to explore the options early,” Director of Health Services Heather Dale said.
Students will still be able to go to Health Services and pay 25 dollars for an office visit or physical. The old supplemental insurance policy covered the first 1,000 dollars of medical care, for example getting a strep throat test, but was not a good comprehensive plan because if you broke a bone the cost would go over the 1,000 dollars coverage and students would have to pay bills out of pocket.
“Health Services will never turn a student away because of lack of insurance,” Administrative Secretary and Billing Specialist Tracey Peymann said.
The new regulations to the Affordable Care Act should make it easier as a student to get on a parent’s insurance plan.
Under the age of 26, a dependent can be on a parent’s insurance plan but some students don’t have that option in cases of being underinsured or unemployed.
“Everyone is in a unique situation and now we need to help students find out how to buy their own plan,” Peymann said.
“It is like being stuck between a rock and a hard place,” VanHecke said. “The new compliant plan would have been a financially hard decision for students that need coverage as the price would continue to go up causing loan sizes to increase.”
With the release of the decision not to have a supplemental insurance plan next year, Dale suggests “that you invest now so you can be covered later.”
“This is an emotional issue for [Gustavus],” Westphal said.
Gustavus wants all students to be covered and are recommending places to go to find an insurance plan.