UC SHIP Forum: Speak Up Before April 8 Advisory Board Meeting

Graduate Division

Faced with a projected deficit of $57.4 million by the end of the 2012-13 plan year,  the university’s student health insurance plan (UC SHIP) will undergo structural changes in the 2013-14 year to prevent the plan from falling further into debt. 

At a UC SHIP open forum on April 1, UC SHIP representative Shanni Silberberg emphasized the need for students to voice their opinions on these changes before the April 8 Advisory Board Meeting. 

Premiums paid by UCSF students will increase by an estimated 20 percent ($553).  This increase is calculated through a banding system, where schools in the low band such as UCSF have a lower percent premium increase. The premium increase for UCSF students may be further reduced by our lack of an undergraduate population.  Graduate plans have contributed less to the deficit than undergraduate plans, said Student Health and Counseling Director Adele Anfinson, at the forum.

UCLA proposed a 16.5 percent  cap on increase, but this strategy would put UC SHIP into further debt.  Students want the UC Office of the President (UCOP) to absorb the premium increase to blunt the impact on students, but “there is no possibility that [UCOP] is going to chip in,” said student representative Silberberg.  She suggested that the banding system is more beneficial to UCSF, as UCLA’s proposal may require UCSF students to absorb more of the debt at a later time.   

Expect changes to benefits

Benefit changes may be in order to reduce premium increases.  However, UCSF students in a school-wide poll reported a strong preference for increased premiums rather than reduced benefits. Most benefit reductions do not significantly reduce premiums.  

Increasing pharmacy co-pays from $40 to 50 percent for a brand name non-formulary drug, would only save students $37 of 1.1 percent per year.  

If other campuses insist on changing the benefit structure, UCSF may have to reconsider.  A possible option is increasing the deductible from $200 to $275, which would save students $90 or 2.7 percent  on annual premiums.  

Silberberg noted that UCSF students in particular benefit from our affiliation with the UCSF Medical Center; coinsurance and deductibles are waived.  

Students have also voted for retention of dependent and voluntary leave coverage, particularly as these groups only contribute to 1.8% and 0.9 percent of premiums, respectively.  

Removal of caps

Separate from the issue of premium increases is the lifting of various health care caps.  Still up for debate is the possibility of lifting limits on Essential Health Benefits.  These include acupuncture, medical evacuation and physical therapy.  Currently, there is little student feedback on the issue.  

Only one student has reached the physical therapy limit ($5,000/year) in the past three or four years, according to Student Health and Counseling C Medical Director Susan Rosen. This can occur as a result of a traumatic accident or major surgery.  

The Advisory Committee has recommended removal of the controversial annual pharmacy and lifetime medical caps, according to Silberberg at the April 1 open meeting.  The decision is not yet final, however.  The Executive Committee must make recommendations to the Council of Chancellors, which will make the final decision for the 2013-14 plan year. 

Upcoming deadlines

April 8: UC SHIP Advisory Board Meeting

Student and campus representatives from all UCs write recommendation for the executive committee.  

Week of April 15: Second Advisory Board Meeting

The Advisory Board finalizes recommendations.

April 24: UC SHIP Executive Committee Meeting

The Executive Committee makes recommendations to Council of Chancellors.

May 1: Council of Chancellors Meeting

Chancellors make the final decision for 2013-14 year.