UCOP May Lift SHIP Coverage Limits

     

    The UC Office of the President is considering several changes to the UC Student Health Insurance Plan, including the removal of annual coverage caps.

    The UC SHIP advisory board, an assembly of students and healthcare representatives from each UC campus, and UCOP met on Friday, March 22 to discuss possible changes to SHIP for the next academic year. They voted unanimously to eliminate the $10,000 annual prescription drug coverage cap. All but one campus voted to eliminate the $450,000 lifetime maximum for undergraduate students and the $750,000 maximum for graduate students. These caps are expected to be lifted for the 2013–2014 academic year.

    According to Matthew Mayeda, co-chair of UCSD’s SHIP advisory board, drawbacks of SHIP also include a relatively small variety of treatment facilities available for those covered under the insurance policy — primary care is delivered at Student Health Services, and specialty care outside SHS requires a referral.

    Historically, SHIP premiums have been too low to sustain the program. Even at the current $385.46 per quarter for undergraduates and $598.39 per quarter for graduates, SHIP has accumulated a $57 million deficit since 2001. To keep current benefit levels, UCOP is considering raising premiums by an average of 25 percent systemwide in order to close the gap. Other price increases such as a slight increase in pharmacy co-payments, and co-payments for MRIs and CAT scans could also take place.

    According to Brooke Converse, a UCOP media relations representative, the removal of spending caps will not only increase premiums but will help reinvent SHIP policy to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s ban on lifetime and annual prescription drug limits on essential care — a requirement from which UC SHIP, as a self-funded insurance program, is exempt.

    “If you remove the benefit maximum, then the potential cost is unlimited,” UC SHIP director Heather Pineta said. “It would increase the cost of the plan for every plan member because it would increase the potential liability.”

    Although unlimited coverage will benefit students who suffer from sudden and serious health issues, it cannot afford private health insurance premiums.

    “I understand that any increase in fees can be very hard on students in today’s economy,” said Matthew Mayeda, co-chair of UCSD’s SHIP advisory board. “That being said, I feel that it is a very altruistic move by the UCs to move to a plan without lifetime or pharmacy caps, as the students who reach these caps are often very sick. I personally feel that a rare cancer or bad car accident should not be a reason why a student has to withdraw from their academic studies.”

    The council of chancellors will issue the final decision regarding changes to SHIP on May 1, 2013.

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