By Rachel Stengel
The cost of the University-provided health insurance may triple starting next year if the U.S. Supreme Court finds the individual mandate requirement of President Obama’s health care plan constitutional.
Rider offers a health insurance plan to approximately 1,500 students at a rate of $275 per year. It covers up to $25,000 in maximum benefits coverage, but students can choose to purchase up to $50,000 in coverage. The plan is in accordance with New Jersey state law, which requires all full-time students attending private or public institutions of higher education to maintain health insurance with basic hospital benefits. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Rider would be required to cover up to $100,000, thereby increasing the cost of the University-provided health insurance, according to Dean of Students Anthony Campbell.
“The estimates we’re getting in right now for this insurance are anywhere between $855 and $955, depending on deductibles, what we cover and how we cover it,” Campbell said.
The Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on October 23, 2010, ensures that student health plans do not have less than $100,000 in annual limits on essential benefits coverage beginning before September 23, 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Essential benefits include various medical services and items such as emergency care, laboratory tests and hospitalization services. The annual limits on essential benefits will rise to $500,000 for policy years beginning on September 23, 2012, but before January 1, 2014. There will be no annual limits on essential benefits as of January 1, 2014, according to HealthCare.gov, a federal government website managed by HHS.
Campbell explained that as the amount of coverage increases so will the price of the university-provided health insurance. With the $500,000 benefit coverage requirement for 2013, the price of the University-provided health insurance is estimated to cost between $1,500 and $1,800. In 2014, there will be no annual limits on essential benefits; therefore, insurance providers will be required to offer unlimited benefit coverage. The estimates for 2014 run as high as $2,500-$3,000.
“These are projections that I’m not sure about, but we know it’s going to be more costly to students,” Campbell said.
Junior psychology major Juan Lorenzo has the University’s health insurance plan. He said the price of the current plan is its biggest asset.
“Let’s be realistic — [the insurance] is $275 a year,” Lorenzo said. “You can make that in a month at a job so [the price] now is good because it’s cheap. If [the price] increases, that wouldn’t be so good because you’d have to find the money somewhere, through some kind of loan.”
Lynn Eiding, director of Student Health Services, said in an email that she believes the Affordable Care Act has positive intentions.
“I believe that the current health care reform laws mandated by President Obama were instituted with the intention of improving health coverage and access to care for full-time college students,” she said. “The cost of the insurance will gradually increase over the next three years, but will include greater maximum limits on coverage.”
Rider is in the process of submitting a request for proposal (RFP) with various health care providers and brokers to find an insurance provider.
“We’re looking for the best price for the best coverage,” Campbell said. “All of that is interesting because you can get a lower price if you have higher deductibles. For a little more in price, you can have lower deductibles. All of those things are being weighed out and we’re looking at what’s the best plan for the students.”
The Supreme Court has been debating whether or not it is constitutional to mandate health insurance for all Americans. The Affordable Care Act requires all citizens to maintain health insurance and if they do not, they must pay a penalty. Depending upon the Supreme Court’s decision, the University may need to alter the details of its plan.
“If [the Supreme Court] overturns the mandate, that doesn’t do anything for New Jersey because New Jersey still mandates [health insurance] for college students, but how will that ruling affect the rest of the insurance program?” Campbell said. “Will they repeal the start of it? Will they repeal the whole law? Will they continue to go forward? Those are all the unknowns that we have to deal with.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling is estimated to be delivered in June and so is the University’s decision. For now, Rider will plan for an increase in cost for its university-provided health care.
“We have to assume that the health care plan will go into action as planned,” Campbell said. “So we have to have a plan that complies with the current law.”