Proposed federal bill may increase UNC-system health care costs

Premiums may double in system

By Jen Serdetchnaia | The Daily Tar Heel

A proposed federal regulation might change the administration — and significantly increase costs — of student health plans at universities nationwide, including the UNC-system plan that was introduced last semester.

University health insurance plans have come under scrutiny for having a greater profit margin than the typical individual health insurance coverage, while not providing students sufficient coverage.

The proposed regulation released last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would categorize student health plans as individual health insurance coverage.

Other components of the regulations include mandating that university plans cannot discriminate against students based on pre-existing conditions.

The 60-day comment period, which allows external organizations the opportunity to comment, began Feb. 11 as the proposed regulation was published.

“This bill maybe means we can’t have a hard waiver plan, which would make our premiums double,” said Bruce Mallette, the senior associate vice president for academic and student affairs for the UNC system, at last week’s Board of Governors meeting.

A hard waiver requires students to show evidence of credible coverage to be enrolled in system schools.

Mallette said the board is going to review the proposed regulation.

“Since there is a 60-day comment period, the regulatory phase is still to be shaped,” Mallette said in an e-mail.“Thus, the final regulations are not yet known, and the full impact of the federal rules on future premium pricing of the UNC-systemwide plan is not yet known either,” he said.

Mary Covington, executive director for the UNC-CH Campus Health Services, said in an e-mail the health insurance process is constantly being examined for its utility for students.

Legislators are acknowledging that students are sometimes offered limited benefits through student health insurance plans, and the regulation would be an attempt to fix that, she said.

“The Affordable Health Care Act has recognized the significance of three million students who are covered by student insurance plans,” Covington said.

She said that although student insurance plans are less expensive than other options, they do not always satisfy the standards set by the American College Health Association, an organization that addresses the health needs for college students.

“These plans were inexpensive and thus attractive to students but left the insured open to catastrophic medical expenses,” Covington said.

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