UC adopts systemwide student health insurance

Photo: The Tang Center will be involved when the UC system changes its insurance for students.
Kevin Hahn/Photo
The Tang Center will be involved when the UC system changes its insurance for students.

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The University of California has adopted a systemwide student health insurance plan aimed at reducing student coverage fees, providing a dependent plan option for spouses and children and giving students more pharmaceutical and treatment benefits.

By grouping students into one plan, the university can negotiate lower rates with insurance vendors. The plan, which will go into effect Aug. 15, will accommodate approximately 130,000 students at all 10 UC campuses.

According to Heather Pineda, director of the UC Student Health Insurance Plan, a group dedicated to the idea of systemwide health insurance was formed in 2008 to gauge whether universal insurance would be beneficial for both students and the university. In 2010, the system was implemented for graduate students at six of the 10 campuses.

"There were significant savings and benefits that could be gained by levering purchasing power of all the UCs," she said. "So a decision was made to create a systemwide plan to include undergraduates."

Kim LaPean, communications manager at the Tang Center, said students will benefit the most from the increased co-insurance pay. Under the new plan, students will pay only 10 percent of their costs compared to last year's rate of 20 percent.

She added that the new program will have a dependent plan option. Students will be able to add children or spouses with the same insurance benefits for an additional fee of $3,200 per year and $3,700 per year, respectively.

Although students will see a $52 increase in the price of their insurance plan, LaPean says they will be saving much more money in the long run.

UC Berkeley sophomore Amelia Silverwood gets monthly blood tests at the Tang Center and said that through the insurance plan, her prescriptions and appointments have been extremely cost efficient.

"Between prescriptions and doctor visits, I have never had to pay more than $15," she said. "Through (the campus plan), I have found that some prescriptions are half the price of what I used to pay."

Compared with other public institutions, Pineda said the quality and price of the UC's insurance plan is in the 90th percentile of universities across the nation.

While UC students will pay 10 percent of their insurance coverage next year, students at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and State University of New York, Buffalo - two of the four public universities to which the UC compares itself - will pay 20 percent. At Buffalo, students also pay $10 for generic prescriptions - compared to $5 at UC Berkeley - while Illinois does not cover any cost of generic prescriptions.

Last year, the UC Berkeley insurance plan was $761 per semester for undergraduates, compared to Illinois' plan at $206 per semester and Buffalo's price of $843 per semester.

The plan is designed to be 99 percent identical between the 10 campuses, according to LaPean. Prices and insurance providers will vary from campus to campus.

For example, UC Berkeley will continue to use its school of optometry to provide students with eye care, LaPean said.

Pineda said the concept of insurance purchasing across a college system is becoming a trend. Other university systems - including the 16 campus University of North Carolina system, which implemented a systemwide plan in fall 2010 - across the nation are doing similar collaborations and getting increased benefits.


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