Student health insurance cost unlikely to jump again
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 00:10
Despite the doubling of student health insurance cost last year, about the same number of students have enrolled in the school program for 2012-13--and price isn’t likely to rise significantly for the next several years, according to UNCW officials.
UNCW students this year are paying twice what they did last year for their student health insurance plans after the student health directors from each UNC-system school agreed on a blanket price for all students. The price jumped from $66 a month for UNCW students to $118 a month for all UNC-system students.
The rise in cost for UNCW students was overdue, according to Katrin Wesner, director of student health at UNCW. Pierce and Pierce Inc., the company that insures UNCW students, underestimated how much health care students would need.
"The cost of (student) health insurance was underpriced to begin with," Wesner said.
Some students are concerned that their bill will rise due to qualitative changes in student health care.
Political candidates both at the state and federal level have blamed rising health care costs on the changes. But the new legislation is only partially responsible.
Some of the changes include required coverage for preventative care, like non-symptomatic STD-screenings and healthy check-ups.
Also, the policy maximum per year, or the maximum dollar amount insurance will pay for, is rising for students: from $100k to $150k next year, and will gradually shift to $500k.
The biggest changes haven't even happened yet-- in 2014, students will be covered regardless of pre-existing conditions.
But UNCW’s student health insurance plan already covers most preventative care required by the new law, and very few students reach the policy maximum. Since insurance companies price plans are based on how much they’ll have to pay out every year- and since the amount they’ll have to pay out this year is unlikely to differ from previous years- that price isn’t likely to change.
“It is very rare that a student will need $100k worth of care in a single year,” said Wesner. “Insurance companies know that.”
Outside insurers may have lower premiums, but they often have expensive deductibles of $10,000 or more—meaning students would have to pay that much out of pocket before they’re insurance kicks in.
“Our plan is still a good plan,” says Wesner. "You can get a Blue Cross Blue Shield for $38 a month, but with a $20,000 deductible. That's not realistic."
Wesner predicts that competitive prices will keep the cost low. It’s a bid year, a time where UNCW invites insurance companies to offer good prices in exchange for a contract to insure students without outside providers.
Vice Chancellor Pat Leonard, who approves any changes to student health insurance, agrees with Wesner: If the price does change, it will only be by a few dollars. Leonard says the hardest part about shaping student health insurance policy is making sure that care and prices reflect what all student need and affordability.
“If something looked fundamentally unfair, then we wouldn’t approve it,” said Leonard.
All full-time students in the UNC-system are required to purchase health insurance from UNCW or an outside provider.