New health-care regulations to extend students’ coverage

Recent additions to the U.S. health-care reform law will provide college students with some minor benefits.

Effective Jan. 1, 2012, new regulations will establish more accountability on the behalf of insurance providers. Because University-sponsored insurance is mandatory for students, these new regulations will not affect students’ ability to obtain health insurance coverage.

In smaller ways, students may experience some benefits.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, insurance companies will not be allowed to levy lifetime coverage limits on student health plans, drop students’ coverage when a student becomes ill but has an error on an application, or deny coverage to students who are younger than 19 and have pre-existing conditions.

Before the health care law was enacted, many students were covered only under their parents’ plans until they were 21 years old, but the new act allows them to stay on until age 26. This means Washington University students will be able to use their parents’ insurance as secondary coverage in addition to the University-sponsored plan.

Virginia Wells, director of the health center at the College of William & Mary, a public university in Williamsburg, Va., attested to the health care law’s measurable benefits.

“When students require hospitalization or specialty care away from the confines of the University Health Center, their parents’ health plan becomes their secondary coverage, which helps offset the charges which may have exceeded the limits of their primary plan,” Wells said. “Before the affordable health care act, undergraduate and graduate students over the age of 21 would not have the option of this secondary coverage.”

Nearly 3 million college students participate in university-sponsored health plans across the country, according to recent studies, and more than 2,000 colleges and universities collaborate with insurance companies to provide students, faculty and staff with health care.

Washington University partners with Aetna to provide all full-time undergraduate and degree-seeking graduate students with health insurance. Some provisions included in the student health plan are a $500,000-per-year maximum, a $350 preferred-care deductible, a $10,000 out-of-pocket maximum and 80 percent coinsurance for covered expenses.

Bradley Stoner, associate professor of anthropology and medicine at Washington University, said that the University student health plan offers standard coverage that is comparable to insurance available to the general public.

“For a young, healthy student body, these kinds of limits and coverage should be pretty good,” he said.

According to Alan Glass, assistant vice chancellor and director of the Habif Health and Wellness Center, the University anticipates few significant changes to the student health insurance program for the 2011-2012 academic year.

For the 2010-2011 school year, the student health fee is $575. According to the Student Health Services website, this fee covers the Aetna health insurance policy, care and services rendered at the health center and the equipment used to treat patients. The insurance premium makes up 70 to 75 percent of the student health fee. The premium is guaranteed to remain the same despite projected increases in the student health fee.

“The student health fee for 2011-2012 will be no higher than $632 for the basic student plan,” Glass wrote in an e-mail to Student Life.

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