Some clear changes coming to student health plans, others still unknown
Regulatory changes passed in March’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act have set insurance companies, hospitals and corporate America to work to alter their health plans and policies. But other organizations, like universities, could see changes, too.
While some of the legislation’s provisions only apply to insurance plans created after Sept. 23, there are several adjustments to which current plans must adhere. Among them are several requirements that could affect college-based insurance plans. The mandates include no lifetime limits on benefit payments, free preventive care and the option of allowing parents to keep children under age 26 on their health insurance plans.
Most school insurance programs, like Stanford’s Cardinal Care, are excluded from these provisions for the 2010-2011 academic year since the first parts of health-care reform were implemented after the year started.
In later years, Cardinal Care’s Tier 2 program, which has a lifetime maximum benefit of $5 million would have to change, as well as Cardinal Care’s $20 co-pay for preventive care.
Ira Friedman, director of Vaden Health Center, addressed the possibility of expanding services.
“Under the new bill, Cardinal Care’s medical benefits will probably expand further (for example, more preventive care), which is a good thing,” Friedman wrote in an e-mail to The Daily. “However, premium costs will probably need to go up. I’m very concerned about that, considering students’ limited budgets.”
He said many upcoming changes directly related to this new legislation are still up in the air.
“The new health care bill is very long and complicated,” Friedman said. “Many of the implementing regulations have not been made public. So, we and others around the country have been working hard to understand the bill’s future impact on students and on the insurance plans sponsored by colleges and universities.”
Today, about 30 percent of undergraduates and 75 percent of graduate students have Cardinal Care. The larger percentage of undergrads with insurance plans other than Cardinal Care could be affected by changes in legislation, depending on whether their parents’ coverage is available to them in future years, whether their parents will purchase coverage from the new state-wide exchanges made available in January 2014 or whether they have Medicaid or other state-funded programs.
Students interviewed expressed satisfaction with their current Cardinal Care coverage.
Elizabeth Patiño ‘14, who lives independently from her family, said she had no viable health insurance options other than Cardinal Care through financial aid. She said she felt extremely safe with her service.
Despite the $20 co-pays for each visit, “Cardinal Care is a good system,” she said. “It is affordable, and I feel secure because I know I can use it if anything happens. It is also really easy to make appointments.”
Julia Grabowska ‘14, an international student, opted for Cardinal Care out of convenience.
“It was too complicated to figure out an international health-care provider with the same kind of benefit,” she said. Although Grabowska has not yet needed any services, she knows of other students for whom Cardinal Care has covered “serious matters” such as visits to the ER and knee injuries.
Overall, the consensus for those who have Cardinal Care either covered by financial aid or paid for by their parents seemed to point to the fact that service is more than satisfactory.
When asked if she planned on changing her health care provider anytime soon, Patiño replied, “I definitely plan to keep it for the next four years.”