UCSD May Opt Out of UC Health Insurance Plan

UC Office of the President and UCSD are negotiating terms for the UC-wide student health insurance plan. UCSD is concerned about participating because the UC plan does not offer as much coverage as the UCSD version, would cost more and remove the free health care services students receive from the two on-campus medical centers.

The goal of the UC–wide insurance plan is to combine all students in the UC system, which increases negotiating power with insurance companies — allowing UCOP control over policies and replacing insurance companies as the middleman. The larger student pool would disperse insurance risks that makes it less costly to bear the costs of insurance claims if an many people filed for claims.

The UCSD Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee was concerned the systemwide plan would eliminate the improvements made to UCSD’s USHIP plan this year in accordance with Barack Obama’s Health Reform Act. The improvements included better immunization, dental and vision benefits, as well as the competitive mental healthcare coverage. Also, the plan would cause the two medical centers to bear a larger percentage of the costs, so students would no longer be able to receive free medical care there.

Although a systemwide plan for graduate students called UC-GSHIP was implemented Fall Quarter, the UCSD committee recommended on Feb. 18 against expanding the model to USHIP for next year.

On Feb. 23, the UC-wide committee that manages negotiations with insurance companies contacted UCSD Student Health Services Director Regina Fleming in hopes of working out an agreement.

A.S. SHIP and Wellness representative Alex Vu said another concern is how UCSD could lose some of the competitive mental health care rates and co-insurance discounts offered in the current plan.

“Regarding issues like mental health, the committee saw that the UC-wide insurance company could not pay a good rate for providers compared to our current insurance,” Vu said. “UCSD could lose the coveted 10 percent co-insurance discount.”

The committee is also concerned the plan does not provide the level of medical-service access UCSD students receive.

“The insurance plan should be a supplement to what you cannot get on campus,” Fleming said. “On our campus, we have a pharmacy, X-ray and laboratory. A uniform health plan that could jeopardize this level of coverage just does not make sense.”

Now, the medical centers offer 100-percent coverage to students after annual deductibles — a benefit unique to UCSD. But when the UCSD committee presented the proposed UC-USHIP to UCSD medical centers, medical center representatives said they could only guarantee full coverage for one more year under the UC-wide plan. Afterward, students will be in charge of a percentage of medical costs.

Vu also expressed concerns that insurance companies reimbursed doctors in varying degrees. Since the reimbursement rate is lower in Southern California than in Northern California, insurance premiums are also lower in Southern California.

“The smoothing out [of premiums] seems to be negative for our university,” Vu said. “There are benefits to the model, like if we had crazy claims one year, Northern California would help us pay out. It’s not so much that we are against or for it, but rather that this was implemented without our consent or advisory, which was kind of sketch.”

In addition, committee members were unsure of UCOP’s governance plan regarding the insurance plan.

Concerns with the organization of current UC-GSHIP also raised doubts.

“We’ve already had some difficulty UC-GSHIP, such as enrolling students and other logistical things,” Fleming said. “There are just too many unresolved issues.”

The UCSD Committee is, however, willing to negotiate with UCOP.

“At this point, I don’t know if our concerns will be addressed, but we’ll see,” Fleming said.

UCOP spokesperson Steve Montiel said that UCOP could not comment on UCSD’s concerns.

“Nobody really knows the full picture yet,” Montiel said.

The committee will meet with UCOP insurance representatives again this week to see if their concerns can be addressed before providing Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Penny Rue with a final recommendation on whether to join the UC-wide system.