Outlining the Options for Student Health Insurance

The Student Health Advisory Committee (SHIAC) and Student Affairs hosted an open forum to discuss the UC Student Health Insurance Plan (UC SHIP) deficit at a conference held in the Student Center on Feb. 26 and 28. Held in the style of a town hall meeting, the conference was open to both undergraduates and graduates to create transparency between those hosting the forum and the student body on the current UC SHIP dilemma.

Alex Keena, SHIAC Co-Chair, began the event by giving a presentation on the deficit and possible solutions, as well as a brief explanation of SHIAC’s role in recommending policy decisions to the UC SHIP advisory board.

After briefing the audience on the past fully funded USHIP plan and current UC SHIP plan, the conversation turned to the future of student health insurance at UCI addressing sustainability on a long-term level due to the fact that it is too late in the process to make immediate adjustments to UC SHIP for the upcoming school year.

The first option presented suggested modifying the current UC SHIP program with the possibility of creating a two-tiered system. The suggested two-tiered system would reduce premium costs by creating a lower tier akin to an HMO plan, with more restrictions at a lower cost, and a higher tier similar to a PPO plan, with less restrictions at a higher cost. Though this option would allow for out of pocket savings on benefits provided, many in attendance were concerned that this option would create a class division amongst students who can afford the higher tier plan and those who cannot.

Another option discussed in the meeting was the possibility of contracting with a private insurer to create a fully funded healthcare model with the current UC SHIP system. The downside to this choice is the fact that it would be more expensive and inconvenient for students, as they would have to cooperate with health insurance companies.

Attention turned to UCI specifically with the discussion of a third option — wherein UCI would leave UC SHIP and return to its own USHIP. “Going Rogue,” as it was labeled during the forum, means that UCI would break off from the system-wide UC SHIP program to revert back to an independent system that is fully funded, similar to the USHIP system Irvine had before 2010. This option seemed favorable to some of the students in attendance.

The last option, which was loaded with hypothetical changes and cost consequences, was to potentially keep the current UC SHIP system and reform it. As expected, selecting this option would most likely result in higher premium costs and a reduction of benefits.

During the Q&A session following the presentation, students in the room inquired about alternative funding, UC SHIP budget monitoring and expressed disapproval at the possibility of a two-tier system.

Though this conference began with transparency in mind between administrators and students regarding the issues of healthcare, these hypothetical situations require further discussion and more involvement from the undergraduate community, which was low in attendance at the meeting.