With Obamacare coming into effect in 2014, it doesn’t look like the university will be making any drastic changes in its approach to student health care anytime soon.
In a study conducted in 2008 by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), researchers found that 1.7 million traditional age students, ages 18-23 years, do not have health insurance. That constitutes 20 percent of the national college student body. Although the topic of student health care is always lurking, administrators here have decided that it is not an issue worth pursuing.
Senior Director of Student Health Services Bill Erb said there have been a few attempts to bring health insurance providers to campus. These attempts have, however, failed, mostly because any program is not lucrative for the companies.
“Out of 50 students, 40 of them are either pregnant students or students with preexisting conditions,” he said. “Neither of those groups get the insurance companies very much money.”
Most of the students who are willing to pay for insurance were already with another provider or on their parents’ insurance, Erb further explained, so the group that signed up for the insurance was not large enough to keep the provider’s interest.
“In my opinion, it would have to be a mandatory thing for students to have insurance in order for a company to come here,” Erb said.
According to Bob Rasmussen, dean of students, the idea of a mandatory health insurance plan has been explored in the past.
“Two to three years ago, this got to be a hot issue,” he said. “The student government at the time wanted to have a school-sponsored plan, but it didn’t really get off the ground.”
Part of the reason is simple competition.
“I think you’d be looking at $40 to $50 a month, at the minimum,” Rasmussen said. “If we were to tack that onto tuition, we might price out a lot of students. If we have mandatory health insurance, and school X down the road doesn’t, we would lose students because we’d be more expensive.”
Rasmussen admitted that his dollar figures were off the top of his head and that he hadn’t recently researched the numbers, but the GAO found that student health care plans ranged from $30 to $2,400 a month. With a variability that large, and with the school’s growing numbers, it would be hard to estimate exactly how much students would have to pay.
Ben Reichert, UVUSA multicultural representative, has been studying the topic of student health insurance for the past several months. A Health Administration major himself, Reichert doesn’t think a school-sponsored plan is upcoming.
“It will never be a mandatory thing at UVU,” Reichert said. “If it were maybe $50 a month, and it were rolled into tuition, maybe the school could pull it off. But if we’re looking at $80 to $100, I think it would be too much for students.”
According to Reichert, he feels that the school’s administrators have other priorities at the moment; however, he also said that if the federal government’s health care plan is not repealed, and if students are required by law to have health insurance in 2014, the school will “step forward and provide an affordable option for students.”
Because such an event is not in the near future, Reichert has been working with different health care providers such as United Health Care and Select Health to see if a discounted student plan could still be available. The results of his efforts are still pending.