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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Administration

Student health insurance provider change alters cost, coverage


Changes to the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) include higher emergency room deductible and the removal of dependent coverage for insured students' families. | File photo

Changes to the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) include higher emergency room deductible and the removal of dependent coverage for insured students’ families. | File photo

The UH System has changed Student Health Insurance Plan provider for the 2020-21 academic year, ushering in changes to deductibles, in-network service providers and benefits available to insured students. 

The University selected Academic Blue, underwritten by BlueCross/BlueShield of Texas, over previous insurance provider United Healthcare Student Resources insurance due to its lower cost in comparison to renewing the plan with the 2019-20 SHIP provider. 

The updated program features a higher emergency room deductible and no dependent coverage. 

“The University of Houston System has made the decision that a change in the SHIP is necessary beginning the 2020-2021 academic year,” said Student Affairs and Enrollment Services head Richard Walker. 

“Academic Blue presented a plan that offers an annual premium cost that is less than the annual renewal rate requested by the current SHIP provider,” Walker added. 

The change and renewal of SHIP coverage has altered the deductibles that students have to pay upon receiving medical treatment and the providers that are available within the healthcare provider’s network.

“To mitigate the cost of the premium, the emergency room deductible was increased and a deductible for prescriptions filled outside the UH Campus Pharmacy is now in effect,” Walker said. 

In the 2019-20 academic year, medical emergency expenses accrued by an insured student at an in-network provider cost a $150 copay per visit, which would be waived if the individual was admitted to the hospital, and a preferred allowance. Preferred allowance refers to the amount a preferred provider will accept as payment for covered medical expenses. 

For the 2020-21 academic year, emergency care will cost students 80 percent of the cost of each visit after the payment of a $250 copayment. As was the case with the 2019-20 SHIP program, insured students will have the copay waived in the event that they are admitted to the hospital for further treatment. 

SHIP has undergone changes to policy as well as cost and coverage. Dependent coverage, which provides insurance coverage for family members of the policy holder, has left the spouses, children and partners of those enrolled in the SHIP program without the health insurance coverage that has been available to them under plans from previous years. 

“Dependent coverage was not part of the SHIP (previously,)” Walker said. “It was a separate policy made available for the prior two academic years and is no longer available. The cost of a dependent plan included with a SHIP would add to the premium cost of all students, with or without dependents, enrolled in SHIP.” 

The removal of dependent coverage comes as families continue to grapple with medical challenges presented by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

For some students, the changes to the healthcare plan raises concerns in light of the pandemic. 

“I hope UH changes (the policy so) that dependents are able to have the healthcare they deserve,” biology senior Rael Memnon said. “To me, healthcare is a right and should be freely accessible to others.

“My stance is for UH to review this change … especially under the situations we are in (now).”

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