SHS stops requiring its own health insurance
Washington University is no longer requiring that students purchase their own health insurance, in compliance with nationally mandated changes under the Affordable Care Act.
The change, which will be implemented for the upcoming school year, means many students will use their parents’ insurance plans for full coverage and pay a $300 health and wellness fee instead of the current $780 student health fee.
Students not covered under their parents’ plans, however, will have to pay more for a plan that will now include prescription drug coverage.
“We think that a majority of undergraduate students will stay on with their parents’ insurance,” Alan Glass, director of Habif Health and Wellness Center, said. “The University will have the same policy, but it will just be more expensive for students that wish to use it.”
Making the current plan fully compliant with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act would have cost too much to require of all University students, Glass said. He believes some graduate and professional students will switch over to their parents’ insurance because the new rules extend individual coverage under parents’ plans to the age of 26.
The current insurance plan has been in place for a decade, but the changes to be implemented next year will make it similar to plans offered at peer institutions.
While SHS will no longer require students purchase its insurance plan, it will impose a mandatory $300 health and wellness fee on all students. The fee will go toward student health services, nutrition and sexual assault services, as well as athletic services and promotion of health and wellness in general.
The fee will also help to maintain the current mental health policy, in which students are allowed nine free sessions, regardless of whether they choose to be on the University’s insurance plan or their parents’ plans.
SHS officials said the center will be working to accommodate students who choose to switch over to their parents’ insurance policies but did not specify exactly which providers the University will accept.
“We’re planning on putting processes in place so that we can bill other companies for students who have other plans in order for them to still be able to get help here,” Student Health Director of Administration Debra Harp said. “We’re definitely going to try to get the big insurance carriers and some of the medium-sized ones.”
Harp said the new system should be running by Aug. 1.
While many students support the new flexibility the policy affords, the increase in the fee for those who will still need to purchase the University’s plan troubled some.
“It does save [me] money, but I don’t really see why it would be necessary to raise insurance for students whose parents, who aren’t covered by their insurance,” sophomore Brendan McIntyre said. “It doesn’t really make sense because it seems like they’ve been able to provide adequate care as is, and I’m thinking that families that aren’t insured by their parents already do not necessarily need that increase. I do support the University giving student the option to use their own health insurance, but I definitely don’t support the increase.”
Freshman Kristen Wong noted that the change might hurt international students.
“I think it’s really nice that they offer a second alternative, [but] it would be detrimental to international students who don’t have [eligible coverage from their parents],” she said. “I’d prefer having my parents coverage, partly because it’s cheaper but also because they’re already paying for that, so we might as well go on with it.”
First year post-baccalaureate student Matt Dale said he wishes the change had come sooner.
“I just started in the summer, I’m a post-bac student. So I had coverage with my parents, so I didn’t really need [university health insurance], but they made me pay for it anyway back then over the summer. And then, I just got dropped from my parent’s [coverage] because I didn’t need it anymore because I had the University stuff. But if they’re changing it, that would have saved me a little bit of a hassle with everything because I probably would have just stayed on my parents’ [plan] and paid the [$300] fee,” Dale said.
Glass said the changes should not have a substantial impact on SHS, which will continue to function similarly next year.
“We’ll certainly have students that will continue to need our University plan, and we’ll be able to continue referring them out to other healthcare areas, if need be,” Glass said. “Our system has been different, and it’s served us well for the last 10 years, but now it’s time to move on, and we’re excited to see how things will turn out.”
With additional reporting by Sadie Smeck.