SHIP Costs May Double

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    Student Health Insurance Plan premiums will soon increase, and certain benefits, such as dental and vision care, may be cut in order to finance a UC-wide SHIP deficit of $49 million.

    SHIP was established in 2001 for undergraduates and in 2009 for graduate and professional students. Prior to switching to the UC-wide system, UCSD maintained its own student health insurance. In a Sept. 1, 2001 letter, the University of California Office of the President expressed hope that a unified health insurance plan would allow all students access to medical care at an affordable cost.

    Under the current plan, UCSD undergraduates pay $385.46 per quarter, while graduate students pay $594 per quarter. Students also have the option to waive SHIP by demonstrating equal insurance coverage from an outside source.

    But at the Feb. 6 A.S. Council meeting, Campuswide Senator Matthew Mayeda and co-chair of the Well-being Cluster Student Advisory Board Paulina Nuth explained in a special presentation that UCOP will need to raise SHIP fees beginning in the 2013–2014 academic year. The SHIP deficit is partially the result of miscalculations by an outside consulting firm that priced UCSD students’ benefits at too low of a premium.

    The total debt for all UC campuses is $49 million. UCSD owes more than any other school, with 27 percent of the debt.

    Mayeda contended that the high price had nothing to do with abuse of the system on UCSD’s part.

    “Our old insurance already had fairly generous benefits,” he said. “Our committee advised that we stay out of SHIP, but we were pressured by UCOP to join in.”

    UCOP discussed three primary options to alleviate the debt. The first option establishes a percentage of the debt that each campus is required to manage each year. Under this plan, students will see a 93-percent increase in SHIP premiums over five years.

    A second plan makes each campus responsible for its debt, and a third equalizes premiums for all UC students with the plan.

    Nuth warned council that none of these plans were best for students.

    “Not all UC campuses offer the same medical options,” she said. “With any of these plans, we lose our autonomy over our own insurance.”

    Mayeda added that one of the best solutions included making it more difficult for students to opt out of SHIP, thereby ensuring a lower cost through a larger population. Nuth recommended eliminating vision and dental care to prevent further price increases.

    A secondary problem in the UC SHIP system is the presence of lifetime caps, which will be phased out under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

    Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Penny Rue stated that it would take a minimum price increase of $30 per student per quarter to lift the lifetime caps on UCSD’s current plan. Rue also supported students who rely on SHIP.

    “It is the stance of all the vice chancellors that students should not have to take on all this debt,” she said. “It was an institutional mistake.”

    UCOP will make its final decisions about SHIP premium costs and file changes in April of this year. Nuth and Mayeda claimed that the announcement of the deficit and its quick turnaround time was surprising.

    “This process has always been rushed, and there was no transparency,” Mayeda said. “It was kind of a bomb dropped on us.”

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