Kansas University intends to increase payout caps on its student insurance plans in the coming years, as colleges and universities across the country are trying to figure out how to adjust to new health care regulations, but cautions those plans could change based on court action.
The Obama administration is telling colleges and universities that caps on student insurance coverage for the 2012-13 academic year must be at least $100,000, and then $500,000 for 2013-14 and no limits after that, the Wall Street Journal recently reported.
Students at KU aren’t required to carry health insurance, but a plan in recent years allows students to obtain insurance through the university.
KU will have a policy in place next year that will comply with the guidelines, but will reassess plans for the future based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s pending decision on the health care law. Diana Malott, assistant director at KU’s Student Health Services, has served as a university representative to groups that have helped to formulate the new plans. KU offers the insurance through the Midwest Higher Education Compact, a group of colleges and universities from 12 states that helps keep premiums down using economies of scale.
For undergraduates, the students are responsible for paying the full premium, though premiums for graduate teaching assistants and graduate research assistants are subsidized.
Though many undergraduate students are still on their parents’ health care plans, at KU, about 3,500 students and dependents enrolled in the plan during the 2011-12 academic year.
In 2011-12, the plan had a $100,000 cap, but also had internal limits on pharmacy, physical therapy and outpatient psychotherapy. Premiums cost $1,081 per year.
For the upcoming academic year, the KU plan keeps the $100,000 cap, complying with the new law, but will drop the internal limits and will cover preventive care. Premiums will increase to $1,248 per year for students, or $104 per month. Though KU plans to increase its plan in future years to comply with the new law — pending the court’s decision — the costs associated with those plans aren’t yet known, Malott said.
Heather Moore, a 42-year-old nontraditional student with a pre-existing condition, said she had trouble obtaining private insurance, so she enrolled in two KU courses last year just so she could buy KU’s student insurance before she qualified for Medicare.
The plan saved her from having to enroll in the state’s high-risk pool, which she said would have cost her about $750 per month. Even with the tuition for her classes, signing up for KU’s insurance was cheaper. She said she was pleased with the coverage.
“It’s not Blue Cross Blue Shield, that’s for sure,” she said. “But if you are in reasonable physical condition, it’s not a bad plan.”
Other students, like graduate student Melissa Irwin, had more trouble with the insurance.
“I could not make head or tails of what my coverage was and wasn’t,” she said.
Malott said she always encouraged students to take the time to understand their insurance coverage, particularly the exceptions.
“There are schools that only have very, very basic plans,” Malott said. “They may only cover $10,000. This is not that.”
For those schools, the impact of the new regulations may be more widely felt.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Bethany College in Lindsborg wouldn’t be offering its 12-month plan that cost students $445 per year with $10,000 payout caps next year. University officials told the newspaper that while they wished they could keep the plan, they felt the cost of increasing the caps to $100,000 would be too high, increasing premiums to $2,000 per year.