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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 25, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

Ithaca College insurance not students’ only option

With the passage of the new health care bill that allows students to stay on their parents’ health care plans until they are 26, college students are beginning to reconsider whether their college’s health insurance is a worthwhile investment.

Students at Ithaca College are not required to have the school’s insurance, but they must have some form of coverage to enroll. One-third of students at the college have chosen to remain covered by the insurance. Historically, this number has stayed consistent despite past national strides to reform health care.

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Freshman Eli Weiss sits Oct. 24 outside the Hammond Health Center. Weiss is one of many students on campus using the college’s health care plan. EMILY PARK/THE ITHACAN

Sophomore Kailey Partin waived the college’s insurance and remains only on her parents’ insurance plan.

“It’s cheaper and easier for me to stay on it as long as possible rather than have to pay an extra fee for the school’s,” she said.

For now, Partin said she does not worry about her insurance coverage, since she can remain on her parents’ plan until age 26 if she needs to.

“I’ll be concerned about it once I graduate,” she said. “The college pushes their insurance a lot, but I don’t think it’s really necessary if you have other available insurance to stick with.”

Laura Keefe, operations manager at the Hammond Health Center, said every three to four years the college goes through a bid process and selects the best insurance offer and options from different companies.

She said the college plans to bid again this year or the next and is considering increasing the maximum benefit limit. However, that increase will cause an increase in the cost of the plan for students as well.

“What the college has considered all along is keeping a low-cost plan that still meets the needs of most of our students, who are basically a healthy younger population,” she said.

This year, there are 2,527 students enrolled in the student injury and sickness plan at the college. The college does not track the number of students who are only on the college’s insurance plan. Last year the Health Center treated about 4,524 students and had a volume of 25,555 total visits, Keefe said.

The college’s student injury and sickness plan is a one-year renewable plan from UnitedHealthcare. The plan expires and is renewed every August. Undergraduate students must take a minimum of six credit hours to be eligible.

Students can choose to waive the college’s insurance and remain solely on their parents’ insurance or have both. If a student has both, the college plan is considered primary insurance.

Freshman Eli Weiss said distance was a factor in his decision to keep the college’s student insurance in addition to staying on his parents’ private insurance.

“In case something were to seriously happen here, I wouldn’t have to be at the mercy of my parents’ insurance five hours away,” he said.

Choosing convenience over cost is the dilemma some students face when deciding whether they want to keep the college’s student insurance. Students without the plan must send bills to their private insurance, while students with the college insurance must pay $521 each year.

Partin said one inconvenience of not having the student insurance is that her visits to the Health Center are not covered immediately. Her bursar account is billed, and to receive a reimbursement, she said she has to send the bill home to her parents, who must send the bill to their insurance company.

“It does slow the process down,” she said.” “One time when I was sick last year, they printed the wrong walk-out papers and I had to go back. That’s terrible, especially when you have an insane fever and can’t walk to the bathroom, let alone across campus.”

For sickness, the basic student plan covers the first $150 upfront. Then students incur a $150 deductible, which Keefe said is different than a lot of traditional plans. After that, the basic student insurance covers 80 percent of usual and customary charges, and the student is responsible for the other 20 percent until reaching the maximum of $10,000 for that sickness.

For injuries, the basic plan covers the first $700 of charges, and then the student is responsible for a $150 deductible. If it’s not an athletic injury, then the same process as a sickness applies: the insurance covers 80 percent up to $10,000. Usual and customary charges incurred for interscholastic athletic injuries are covered 100 percent only up to $700.

Keefe said students should not solely rely on the student insurance because it is a limited benefit plan.

Sheri Steurer, student group insurance coordinator at the Health Center, said students can also purchase catastrophic coverage from the insurance company, which raises the maximum benefit limit for any injury or sickness for up to $250,000.

Weiss said having both plans was his best option.

“It’s good to have a backup just in case,” he said. “Even though you have to deal with the bills and insurance all the time when you’re sick, you don’t think about it before.”