Student health plan adds more benefits, costs

The changes are in accordance with the Affordable Care Act.

Student health plan adds more benefits, costs

Tyler Gieseke

Starting this fall, the University of Minnesota’s Student Health Benefit Plan provides more coverage to keep pace with health care reform, but it also costs more for students.

An increase of about 5 percent brings the total price tag to $999 per semester. The updated plan expands coverage for contraception and routine doctor’s visits, among other changes.

This increase will buy coverage that matches some of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

The University’s plan is self-insured, meaning the ACA doesn’t regulate it, said Susann Jackson, student health benefits director. Still, she said, the University wanted to match some of the benefits the legislation requires.

“We want to be doing the same things for our students as the Affordable Care Act,” Jackson said.

Before the changes, the plan covered 80 percent of eligible contraception and preventive care costs, like regular eye exams. The updated plan will cover all eligible costs for these services, Jackson said.

The updated student plan also removes the $3 million lifetime cap on coverage, so students can spend as much insurance money as they need. It also increases the dependent age limit from 19 to 26, so students’ children will be covered longer.

Lynn Blewett, a University health policy professor, said the changes follow a trend for plans similar to the University’s.

“A lot of self-insured plans are following some of the provisions of the

[ACA],” she said. “I think it’s to follow the trend in the private market.”

University students are required to have health insurance if they’re registered for six or more credits and pay the student services fee, Jackson said. If students don’t show proof of insurance, the University charges them for its plan.

About 10,000 people, including about 400 dependents, are covered under the Student Health Benefit Plan across all five campuses, Jackson said. Many undergraduates are covered by their parents’ plans, she said.

International students are required to purchase University health insurance unless they’re eligible for a group health plan through a U.S. insurer or for the University Graduate Assistant Health Plan.

Meng Tie, an international student, said the change won’t make much of a difference for her.

The law student said she’ll return to her home country in 2014, so changes to the health benefit plan now won’t affect her for very long.

She said the extra cost to students to receive added benefits isn’t worth it. “I seldom have health problems,” she said.

But for chemical engineering junior and international student Harnon Ramos, the change is a good thing. He thinks the added costs are worth the enhanced benefits.

“[International students] feel more safe with a health insurance plan,” he said. “If something bad happens with my health here, I will have help.”