UC SHIP in the Age of ObamaCare

Thursday, October 24, 2013

“How is ObamaCare going to change our health insurance?” many students have been wondering. 

Enrollment in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as ObamaCare, began October 1, 2013, for coverage beginning January 1, 2014. 

The controversial health reform strives to make preventative health care more accessible for most Americans.  As insurance plans change, UCSF students may have more options in the future, but what is the best option?

“Each student [needs] to determine whether UC SHIP (the UC Student Health Insurance Plan) is a better financial deal for them,” explained Heather Pineda, Director of UC SHIP.

“UC SHIP’s benefits also need to be taken into consideration, because SHIP is essentially a platinum-level plan [in the ACA], including Dental and Vision coverage, but the cost is much lower.”

UC SHIP is currently the most commonly utilized health insurance plan for UCSF students, with 68 percent of students enrolled in SHIP for the 2013-2014 plan year, according to Adele Anfinson, Director of UCSF Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS). But this number may drop next year. 

“We do anticipate some students who benefit from premium subsidies through Covered California to move to the exchange plans,” said Pineda.  The subsidies are given based on family income levels, up to 400% of the federal poverty level.  Students from lower-income families may therefore benefit significantly and have greater incentive to move away from UC SHIP. 

While this may be a more financially feasible option for some, others may have to analyze the costs and benefits carefully. 

Pineda warns that “many of the plans under Covered California [or another state exchange] have very limited provider networks.”  By contrast, UC SHIP gives members access to the full Anthem network, including UCSF providers.

Advantages of UC SHIP

Students may be relieved to know that UC SHIP is already fully compliant with ACA recommendations and will not have to undergo drastic changes. 

UC SHIP has no pre-existing condition clause and offers 100 percent coverage for women’s contraceptives. This year, in response to student requests, UC SHIP eliminated lifetime medical and annual prescription caps.

“There are no additional benefit mandates related to ACA for next year, and therefore no planned benefit changes to UC SHIP,” said Anfinson. As a result, no significant premium increases are expected, either.

Anfinson noted that because UC students are a part of the advisory committee for UC SHIP, its benefits are tailored to students.  This is not the case for other plans. 

UC SHIP covers psycho-educational testing to assist students with a learning disability.  And for students traveling internationally during the summer, SHIP covers travel vaccinations at 100 percent and medical evaluations out of the country.

Of particular interest to UCSF students, UCSF Medical Center waives the annual deductible and co-insurance for students covered by UC SHIP, when referred by Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS), which lowers out-of-pocket costs.

Another appeal of UC SHIP for busy students is its convenience.  Enrollment in UC SHIP is automatic for students unless they choose to waive it, which makes all students immediately compliant with the ACA requirement to obtain health insurance.  Moreover, if students have insurance concerns, SHCS is readily available to help.

The student budget also includes a mandatory fee for UC SHIP. “If you waive enrollment in UC SHIP, your student budget is reduced, and it impacts the amount of financial aid to which you are entitled,” said Anfinson.

Student Insurance Forum

For more information about UC SHIP and health insurance options for students, an open forum will be held November 1 at S-214  in the Medical Sciences Building on Parnassus at noon.  Heather Pineda will be present, and SHCS will address the premium rates for next year at the meeting. Lunch will be provided for those who RSVP to shs@ucsf.edu