UC-Wide Healthcare: Too Soon to Jump SHIP

This systemwide insurance plan was first proposed in the 2009-10 academic year by the UC Office of the President. Before, each campus had an individualized student health care plan, though under this option all campuses would operate under the same guidelines. By standardizing the coverage, the hope is that they will become a larger base that has more
clout with insurance companies and, potentially, more control in bargaining for new insurance rates. UCOP claims this plan would also disperse insurance risks, so that the system would pay less money in case people filed insurance claims against it.

Most importantly, the plan could save the university system $4 to 5 million per year.
This board has long been a vocal supporter of UC initiatives launched in the spirit of saving money, and of cutting costs in places that don’t affect students’ quality of life. On the surface, a plan to save the UC system $4 million seems like a good idea, but when the effects of the plan trickle down to individual student health care, it seems the plan benefits the system more than the students than comprise it.

UCSD and its students have little to gain from eradicating our Student Health Insurance Program — one of the best in the system — and joining this UC-wide insurance
plan. According to the UCSD Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee, the new plan would remove the free on-campus health service we currently receive and cost more for less coverage.

The plan does provide some improvements, but benefits like more bargaining power are theoretical, and it’s impractical to give up current benefits only to receive theoretical ones that may never pan out. According to the advisory committee, the systemwide plan would eliminate improvements — such as better immunization, dental and vision benefits and mental coverage — made to SHIP this year, and remove our 100-percent coverage
after annual deductibles.

But the biggest change for students would be the reduction of on-campus medical services. Under this plan, UCSD’s two medical centers would be forced to bear a larger percentage of the coverage costs, and they would have to stop allowing students to be treated for free on campus. SHIP is already limited enough — it’s only available Monday through Friday, and
then only until 4:30.

If UCSD opts out, it won’t be the only campus. The campuses of Los Angeles, Berkeley, Irvine and Riverside opted out when the idea was first proposed last year; UCLA’s Student Health Advisory Committee has recommended against it again this year.

There’s a lot of questions that need to be answered with this proposal, and the university and UCOP are still in negotiations. But with the preliminary information, it seems that there is little to gain from joining the pack. Health insurance fees are mandated
for all UC students. On principle, an increase in this sector — especially for less coverage — is little different than an increase in tuition.