Jumping S.H.I.P.

    Effective fall quarter of 2006, students wishing to participate in a club sport will not be able to rely on the Student Health Insurance Plan, but rather will have to pay extra for a supplementary plan presented to the sports club department.

    Campus administrators, deciding that it should not be the campus’ responsibility to pay for the increasing cost of covering UCSD’s student athletes’ injuries, forced club sports to find a way to fund their own insurance.

    According to Brian Murray, director of student health and wellness, the decision was a result of many factors, including “escalating premium increases and the need to provide a low-cost insurance plan” for tens of thousands of students enrolled in S.H.I.P.

    “The reason for the above action was based on claims experience, recognition of the potential claims liability to the plan and from input from the Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee requesting review of the benefits included in S.H.I.P. for intercollegiate athletic injuries,” Murray stated in a letter to concerned club sports participants.

    Under the previous policy, students paid a fee of about $2 per year to cover the cost of insuring both intercollegiate and club student-athletes. However, SHIAC and Murray decided the policy was unfair to nonathletes. As an alternative, Murray offered a price of $22,500 for club sports and around $15,000 for intercollegiate athletic teams to be covered under S.H.I.P. The intercollegiate athletic department paid the price, but for Director of UCSD Sports Clubs Scott Berndes, the offer was not so enticing.

    “[The] intercollegiate [athletics department] went ahead and paid for it, but for [the sports club], $22,500 is quite a bit of our budget,” Berndes said. “The sports club program and the recreation department just couldn’t afford that because it would really hurt our programs. So, at that point we decided that we were not going to pay for it and we started a campaign to inform people that they cannot have USHIP if they want to participate in a sports club.”

    The campaign to find an affordable solution for the athletes is important for Berndes and the continued success of his club teams because one-fourth to one-third of club sports participants use USHIP. According to Berndes, 280 to 300 of the 1,000 club sport athletes will need to take action to be able to play next year. News of the development has outraged students and parents alike and teams are now at risk of losing significant numbers of participants.

    “During recruitment, after we get people interested in playing, we’re going to have to tell them about the insurance issue,” senior men’s ultimate captain Quinn Kennett said. “I have a feeling that it would have a significant effect on attrition, with people realizing how much playing the sport will cost with fees and everything.”

    Originally, Berndes and some athletes thought that it would cost from $900 to $1,400 for participants to pay for a secondary insurance. Recently, Berndes also realized that athletes under financial aid or athletic scholarship that were used to having USHIP paid for them suddenly had to consider whether their participation in a sport was worth $1,000 a year. Berndes also said that 90 percent of grad students use S.H.I.P. insurance because they have it covered through grants and scholarships, affecting their participation in club sports as well.

    “I think back in January, if we had known all this — and maybe we should have done more research, I don’t know — we would have jumped on it quicker,” Berndes said.

    After exploring the different options he had and communicating with Murray, Berndes agreed on a plan that would make it easier for S.H.I.P. carriers to play in their desired sport with minimal financial burden.

    “What we’ve done — and this is the best we can do — is found an insurance broker that offers an affordable supplementary coverage that works with the S.H.I.P. insurance and allows athletes to participate,” Berndes said.

    According to the letter from Murray, this supplementary insurance ranges in cost, from a low of $12.95 per year for sailing to the highest price of $109 per year for ice hockey.

    “With this new option, it’s not that bad, but I still feel bad that [the students] have to pay extra,” Berndes admitted. “But we did do a lot of research once we were aware that there were some things that weren’t clear to us, and I think we’ve come up with the best way around this.”

    Though this new development is clearly beneficial for the athletes, some of them say the change in S.H.I.P. policy will still take its toll on club sports.

    “I’m fearful — not just for our program, but for a lot of programs — of losing the ability to recruit new members easily,” Kennett said. “I understand that there’s a large percentage of people that have insurance outside of USHIP, but for those people that don’t, it’s a significant financial burden, and I don’t feel the students should have to suffer because of a decision by the health board.”

    Though the situation is not ideal, Berndes said that the campus should not expect it to be permanent, since UCSD will be exploring insurance options outside of S.H.I.P. at the end of the next school year. With a whole new policy set, Berndes hopes that there will be room to cover the cost of insuring all athletes once again.

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