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U.Va.’s Student Health Insurance Plan to See Cost Increase
 

April 9, 2004

By Virginia E. Carter

The rising cost of health care affecting everyone in the country will also have an impact on students who participate in the University’s student health insurance plan.

Premiums for the plan, underwritten by The Chickering Group, will increase nearly 34 percent for the 2004-05 year. For students with individual coverage, the annual cost will be $1,600, payable at the time of enrollment in the health plan.

Chickering has served as the University’s carrier since 2002-03. The Student Health Insurance Committee (SHIC), which consists of students, faculty and administrators, chose Chickering following an open and competitive bid process. The current contract with Chickering is effective through Aug. 24, 2005.

Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia M. Lampkin stated she was concerned about the premium increases, recognizing the impact the increased fees will have on many students. However, after months of work, staff were convinced that the increases could not be avoided.

Dr. James C. Turner, executive director of Student Health, said that Chickering’s plan offers a comprehensive benefits package, which has been very important to students in the past and has been requested by students represented through SHIC.

There are several reasons that the insurance premiums are increasing at this rate, Turner said.

“First, inflation in the health care industry, including pharmaceuticals, is increasing at 15 to 20 percent, and these costs are being passed on to consumers,” he said.

“Second, the Chickering plan offers very good and very comprehensive benefits. Health insurance plans offering less protection would cost less, but SHIC has not considered substantial reductions in benefits to be desirable.”

Finally, Turner said U.Va.’s plan experienced extremely heavy utilization by students and their dependents over the past two years. “In combination with nationwide rising health-care costs, heavy utilization here at U.Va. drove our plan costs for 2004 up substantially. The rapid rise in health insurance costs is a common nationwide trend.”

Turner said that the premium increases would have been even higher, approaching 60 percent, if negotiations with Chickering had not included some benefit modifications. Those changes, which also will take effect with the 2004-05 plan year, include an annual deductible, an increased copayment, a coinsurance cost for physician office visits, and an annual prescription medicine deductible.

“We recognize the concerns that students will have over these changes,” said Lampkin. “The trade-offs necessary between premium costs and plan benefits are difficult.”

Chickering is a business enterprise that is separate and distinct from U.Va. The Chickering Group contracts with the University to provide an independent student insurance plan that complements the health-care services offered by the Student Health Center. Students who pay the Student Activity Fee and are resident full- and part-time students carrying at least one semester hour are eligible to receive care at Student Health.

While the majority of undergraduates have health-care coverage through a parent’s policy, many graduate and first-professional students opt to participate in the University-sponsored plan. Graduate and first-professional students are more likely to purchase coverage for their spouses and dependents through the University plan.

Another change that all students will experience this year is increased enforcement of the Board of Visitors policy requiring all students to carry health insurance. In the past, the University has undertaken strict compliance only for newly entering students.

Starting in the 2004-05 academic year, the University will be carefully monitoring the requirement that all students – undergraduate, graduate and international – are covered by a licensed health-care insurance carrier in order to enroll in and remain a student at U.Va.

Students are not required to select the Chickering plan, but must be insured. Students who fail to provide proof of health insurance coverage will be blocked from registration for the spring semester. Student Health is working with ITC to develop a new web-based program that will make insurance verification for returning students simple and easy.

Information about the student health insurance plan is available on Chickering's Web site: www.chickering.com, or by calling U.Va.'s Chickering Customer Services Department at (800) 466-3027. Students also may stop by the U.Va. Student Health Center, where they can pick up literature from the information desk, or from the insurance and referral coordinator.

In addition, U.Va. has prepared a list of frequently asked questions and answers on the plan, available at www.virginia.edu/studenthealth/insurance/faqs.pdf.

MAJOR CHANGES AT A GLANCE

2004-05 Premiums (annual)

• $1,600 Student
• $4,011 Student and spouse
• $6,077 Student, spouse and one child
• $7,038 Student, spouse and two or more children

Benefit Modifications

• Annual deductible of $150
• Preferred Care Provider copayment of $20 (previously $15)
• 10 percent coinsurance for physician office visits
• Annual prescription deductible of $100

Payment Options

• Policy premiums for individual students ($1,600) must be paid up-front.
• A quarterly payment option is available for dependent premium payments at no additional charge.

Enrollment Period

• The annual plan is effective Aug. 25, 2004, through Aug. 24, 2005.
o Students may enroll in the Chickering Plan during the initial enrollment period of July 1 through Nov. 27, 2004. Students enrolling by Nov. 27 will have retroactive coverage to Aug. 25.

• For students attending the University in the fall semester, the plan is offered only on an annual basis, and the full individual premium is required up-front.

• Special enrollment periods also are available for students who enter the University at different times. For details, see www.virginia.edu/studenthealth/insurance/faqs.pdf

All students will need to provide proof of health-care insurance coverage – whether from Chickering or from some other insurance provider. Failure to do so will result in a registration block for spring semester.

   
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