UI student insurance to expand under new health-care policy


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University of Iowa students with student-insurance policies will soon have expanded coverage at no extra cost.

Under the new health-care act, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, the policies will cover preventative care such as vaccines and checkups, and they will no longer have a cap on care and prescription coverage, said Richard Saunders, the UI assistant vice president for Human Resources.

At present, students have a cap of $1,500 on the benefits they can receive. There is also a cap of $500 on prescription coverage.

While Saunders said the changes will not affect most student-insurance users, those with chronic conditions and major injuries will benefit. Routine physicals will also be covered.

There will be no additional charge to student-insurance users during spring semester, but that may change the following semester, depending on how many students use it, Saunders said.

He noted that rates for plans decreased this fall, so next year, the costs could go either way.

But Saunders said it will be up to the students whether they take advantage of the changes.

UI freshman Mercedes Masias, a student-insurance user, said the changes — specifically preventative care — are something she will use.

"I haven't had a real physical since I was in middle school, and I still have immunizations to finish," she said, noting she didn't have health insurance for most of her adolescence. "Those can be $300 to $500 a pop. That's something that's not feasible without some type of health insurance."

Because national health-care reform also allows students to remain on their parents' insurance for a longer period of time, Saunders said, a concern may be that more students will opt out of insurance through the university. But that will remain "an unknown" until later in the year.

Over break, UI officials will mail booklets to all students outlining the coverage changes and student-insurance plans — something Saunders said could possibly attract more students to the program.

The UI change comes on the heels of a federal judge's ruling that the government's requiring people to buy insurance is unconstitutional. A federal judge in Virginia decided people should be able to opt out of health insurance if they want to.

UI political-science Associate Professor Tim Hagle said a lot of younger people don't choose to have health insurance for one reason or another. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 percent of people ages 20-29 did not have health insurance in 2008.

"A lot of time, younger folks feel they're invincible … so it's not at the top of their minds when they're thinking about spending money," Hagle said. "You set your priorities according to your experiences."

People who may not have had health problems in the past might not want health insurance, he said, but the health-care system benefits from having healthy people part of it.

"The health-insurance system is basically a transfer of money from healthy people to unhealthy people," Hagle said. "And if those [healthy] people aren't part of the system, then the system can't sustain itself financially."

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