Students charged for mandatory insurance

Starting this quarter, the UC Board of Regents is requiring all UC undergraduates to have health insurance. The mandate was made Sept. 14, 2000 after about five years of debate, said UC Regents spokeswoman Mary Spletter.

The measure was recommended by UC President Richard Atkinson and was passed “”almost unanimously,”” Spletter said.

While the university has long required health insurance for its graduate and international students, Spletter explained that “”changes in the health care situation have made it more critical for all students to have health insurance.””

She cited the growing number of students who rely upon HMOs, which often do not provide adequate care, and the increasing socio-economic diversity of the university, which has resulted in fewer students being insured through their parents.

Before the measure was passed, about 40 percent of UC undergraduates were uninsured or underinsured, according to Suzette Tsiknas, director of administrative services at UCSD Student Health Services. Drop-outs due to mounting health care costs or the need for treatment at students’ homes, which may be far from San Diego, were becoming more frequent.

“”There was wide acceptance of the need for something [to address these problems],”” Spletter said. “”We’ve been hearing from too many campuses that undergraduates have had to leave [the university] due to health issues.””

A universitywide task force was created to establish requirements for campuses’ individual plans. UCSD had to respond quickly to develop its own plan that adhered to UC standards and met students’ needs. This led to the development and creation of the Undergraduate Student Health Insurance Plan.

A student advisory committee was established in fall 2000 and a tentative plan was bid out to several insurance providers, according to Tsiknas.

SHS assistant director Ronalee Mizoguchi also stressed the cooperation behind USHIP.

“”The college representatives were very much involved with this from the beginning,”” Mizoguchi said. “”We received a lot of guidance from them.””

UCSD selected a plan underwritten by Guarantee Trust Life, a company based in Glenview, Ill. The company is also behind GSHIP, the health insurance plan for UCSD graduate students. Tsiknas said that one reason Guarantee was selected was because it was a “”known entity.””

She claimed that the plan’s coverage is comparable to that of other health insurance providers, while the cost is significantly lower — $163 per quarter, or $489 a year. The university’s goal was to keep the cost below $500 per year.

Students were automatically billed for USHIP in August. Those who can prove that they already have sufficient health insurance can waive the fee via Studentlink. The deadline to do so is Sept. 28.

“”This is a very important benefit for a lot of people,”” Mizoguchi said.

Not everyone agrees, however.

Revelle sophomore Michelle Nunag called the requirement “”a giant pain in the ass.

“”Having to waive it is just this extra [burden],”” Nunag said. “”I think it’s pretty obvious that most students have health insurance.””

Tsiknas said that complaints have been few and far between, and that students not covered under USHIP would still be eligible to use SHS.

Associated Students External Relations will be sponsoring USHIP Awareness Week from Sept. 25 to 28, in an effort to educate undergraduates about their health insurance options.

Tsiknas said that many students have contacted SHS with questions. She said that SHS tried hard to notify the student body about the new program and charge, taking measures such as having flyers available at various high-profile campus offices since January, posting information on Studentlink and sending e-mail messages to continuing undergraduates last June. Incoming freshmen were notified through an SHS mailing sent out over the summer.

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