Amid national health care debate, students question new SHS plan

| Contributing Reporter
(Brittany Meyer | Student Life)

(Brittany Meyer | Student Life)

With national health care reform on the horizon, health insurance is a hot topic among Washington University students. Some say they are unhappy with the school’s Aetna student health insurance plan, which is mandated for all University undergraduate and graduate students.

“I already have my family insurance at home,” freshman Elizabeth Mitnick said. “So my parents aren’t happy about having to pay extra because we’re already covered.”

Freshman Micajah Dudley said he dislikes the University’s requirement that students obtain referrals from on-campus medical professionals before seeking Aetna-covered treatment from doctors outside Student Health Services. Dudley, who recently suffered a sports injury, said he found the process tedious.

“You have to go in to schedule an appointment for a referral for an appointment,” Dudley said.

Freshman Christine Diepenbrock said she is unhappy with Aetna’s prescription drug coverage, which is not included in the basic plan.

Aetna provides students with the option of purchasing a prescription drug plan for an additional $78. Students can also obtain more coverage through the Optional Alternate Medical Plan, which costs $22 more than the basic plan.

The University’s previous student health care plan, which was provided through Great-West Healthcare, also included prescription drug coverage as an additional option.

Graduate student Mark Smith said he feels the student health insurance plan does not work well for graduate students.

“We have different needs than the undergraduates,” he said.

Outgoing students wary of possibility of losing health insurance

One health care provision currently being debated in Congress would allow parents to extend their health benefits to children until the age of 27. Still, students are preparing for the risk of losing health insurance in the outside world.

Senior Jake Laperruque hopes his future graduate school will provide a health insurance option. But like many graduate students, Laperruque must face paying off his large student debt and said he is not sure whether he will be able to pay for insurance in the future.

Associate Dean for Public Health Timothy McBride recommends that graduates find a plan that covers preventative care visits.

“Students may be best off buying a plan that has some relatively high deductibles because then the premiums will be much lower,” McBride wrote in an e-mail to Student Life. “Also look out for pre-existing condition exclusions.”

McBride noted that students should keep in mind that in a medical emergency, they could face large deductibles.

One other available option for University students is to continue their coverage with Aetna by enrolling in the 2009-10 WUSTL Continuation Plan.

The future of health care in America

McBride wrote that he is optimistic about government health care reform in America and the effect it will have on college graduates.

“The future actually looks pretty bright,” McBride wrote. “I believe we will pass comprehensive health reform this year.”

Laperruque also said he would like to see health care reform.

“There needs to be comprehensive health care reform where all Americans can get access [to medical aid],” Laperruque said.

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