Grad students will have new health insurance

David Anderson

The University will unveil a new graduate health insurance plan starting Sept. 1.
The new health insurance plan, to be provided by the BlueCross BlueShield company, will be similar to the current two-year plan.
Students and University officials, dissatisfied with the current provider, Gerber Life, hope the new insurance plan will provide better and wider coverage for graduate assistants.
“We were not completely happy with (Gerber Life’s) service, and their rates increased a great deal the second year,” said George Green, the Graduate School associate dean.
Barb Van Drasek, acting executive vice president of the Council of Graduate Students, said management of the current plan is problematic because paperwork is handled by several administrations. Customers are sent from one company to another and their problems are not solved.
Under BlueCross BlueShield, the new health care plan will be handled by a single administration.
At the same time, Gerber Life decided to discontinue its health care partnerships with universities by the upcoming school year, a representative of the insurance company said.
However, Green said multimillion-dollar contracts of that type are constantly reviewed every several years.
“We might have (changed insurance providers) anyway,” he said. “One has to do so periodically.”
The Board of Regents approved the new plan June 9, following a five-month-long deliberation over several possible candidates.
Green, one of the officials behind the decision to sign the new contract, said the local company is a large one with a good reputation.
“(Graduate assistants) are going to have similarly broad benefits to what they’ve had in the past and hopefully delivered by a very well-administered and broad network plan,” he said.
Sue Jackson, Graduate Assistant Insurance Office Manager, said although the two plans are very similar, students will greatly benefit from the change.
“The difference between BlueCross versus the other plan that’s going to be to the advantage of the graduate students is that they have a larger network of providers to access for care,” she said.
The BlueCross BlueShield provider network encompasses 98 percent of Minnesota physicians, significantly more than Gerber Life’s, and all Minnesota hospitals.
However, one discrepancy between the two plans stands out in the dependent coverage. Whereas Gerber Life offered three options to choose from to insure a graduate assistant’s spouse or child, BlueCross BlueShield will only offer two.
That means the least expensive option will no longer be available.
Green said that, under Minnesota law, BlueCross BlueShield cannot offer the low-price, low-coverage restrictions currently offered by Gerber Life in White Plains, New York.
The University will continue to cover all health insurance expenses for graduate assistants with 50 percent appointments. Insurance costs for graduate assistants with appointments below 50 percent will be based on a monthly rate of $150.73.
The University will also continue to pay 55 percent of the costs for students who opt for the less expensive dependent plan.
Rules about eligibility and enrollment will remain the same.
Gerber Life will remain the University’s insurance provider until August 31. To have insurance coverage after that date, all graduate assistants must re-enroll themselves and their dependents.

David Anderson covers University communities and welcomes comments at [email protected]