Some KU students to see health insurance costs more than double

photo by: Chris Conde

Strong Hall on the University of Kansas campus is shown on Sept. 13, 2018.

Some University of Kansas students will see their health care premiums more than double for the coverage period that includes the 2019-2020 school year.

KU Interim Provost Carl Lejuez announced the changes to student insurance plans recently in a memo to the KU community. He said an increase in claims over the last two years caused United Healthcare, the company providing insurance for the Kansas Board of Regents institutions, to increase its premium prices.

Lejuez said the Board of Regents, which secures and offers the plans for all of the Regents universities and colleges, attempted to keep the costs lower for students mandated to have health insurance — which includes international students and students studying health sciences, such as pharmacy — and graduate students with employee positions in teaching and research.

However, students who sign up for a “voluntary” plan will see a significant cost increase, Lejuez said. Voluntary plans are offered to domestic undergraduate students whose academic programs do not require health insurance coverage and graduate students who do not qualify as student employees.

In his memo, Lejuez said the increases would affect a small number of KU students, but he noted that he did not yet know how many would be using the voluntary plans during the 2019-2020 school year.

Of the 74,300 students enrolled in Regents universities last year, only 1,991 enrolled in the voluntary health insurance plans. A total of 672 were KU students, which is about 2.7% of KU’s overall student enrollment of about 24,200, according to Regents enrollment data.

While the number of students affected by the voluntary plan increase is likely to be low, the plans for those students will more than double in cost. The voluntary plans for a single student will increase from $1,702 per year to $3,673, a 115% increase. Lejuez said the Regents did not have a better option and appeared to acknowledge the increase could be a burden by noting the Regents “concluded there were no ideal scenarios.”

Matt Keith, a spokesman for the Regents, said the changes that led to the spike in voluntary plan premiums were recommended by one of the Regents’ student advisory committees, which are made up of student representatives from each of the six Regents universities.

In the past, plans offered by the Regents put all of the university students into a single risk pool. But when United Healthcare offered a 33.2% increase for health insurance premiums for the 2019-2020 coverage period, the student advisory committee did not like the plan and requested the insurance company to offer alternatives, Keith said.

The alternative the committee and United Healthcare eventually settled on allows the Regents to split the risk pools between voluntary health insurance plans from the mandatory plans. This decision resulted in the 115% increase for voluntary plans and only a 4% increase — from $425 per year to $444 per year for a single student — for mandatory plans.

Keith said the committee chose that path to offset the increase for university students using the mandatory plans because some are required to have health insurance by the university system and others are often older than 26, which prevents them from receiving health insurance through a provision in the Affordable Care Act that allows young adults to continue as dependents on their parents’ health insurance plans.

Most undergraduate students are still under the age of 26 and are more likely to have the option to use their parents health insurance.

“(Undergraduate students) may still have other options,” Keith said.

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