SHIP gets set to sail, families may be left at the dock

In the next few weeks, a request for proposals (RFP) will be sent out for insurance providers to submit bids for the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP). GSS successfully lobbied for graduate and undergraduate student inclusion on the committee that sets the parameters for the RFP in a meeting this fall (despite Chancellor Robert Holub’s recent letter claiming the initiative for more student inclusion).

The purpose of this steering committee is to craft an RFP that both meets the healthcare needs of students and the bottom line fiscal needs of the University Health Services (UHS), according to university spokesperson Edward Blaguszewski. What’s new starting last fall is that UHS has deemed it necessary to use the SHIP to generate revenues, rather than simply cover costs, a situation necessitated by inadequate funding of capital improvements to UHS buildings over the past several years and decades.

The RFP must offer a mix of options to meet these needs. The factors in play are premiums, coverage, and co-pays/co-insurance.

“It’s a balancing act,” Blaguszewski said.

From within this matrix, administrators hope to both generate revenue for needed improvements and/or replacement of UHS facilities and provide coverage to some 6,000 students, including approximately 2,5000 graduate students, all of whom are required by law to have health insurance yet are also ineligible for subsidized state programs because of their status as full-time students.

One of the options currently being proposed in one of the RFP scenarios is to scrap the family health care benefit that some 300 students and their families currently enjoy. According to student representatives on the steering committee, many administrators view family health care as an excessively costly portion of the students covered by SHIP yet a small fraction of the total number students in the plan. Families tend to use health care services more often and thus insurance companies charge quite a bit more for covering them. In effect, the administration argument goes, healthy undergraduates are unfairly subsidizing graduate students and their young children.

UHS director Bernette Daly did not return an email sent earlier this week seeking comment. Associate Chancellor Susan Pearson, who is chairperson of the steering committee, referred questions to the university spokesperson, who said he is not familiar with the details of plans being considered for the RFP and thus could not comment on them.

Since this is only an option at this point—though student representatives on the committee have indicated that it is an option with a lot of support from the administrators on the committee—it is hard to tell exactly how much this might cost the families who have to rely on SHIP for their health insurance coverage. Currently, the family health plan costs $2,299 per semester. GEO eligible grad students pay 10 percent of this. If one of the RFP scenarios that scraps this subsidy is adopted by the committee, recommended to Chancellor Holub in April and accepted by him, then GEO eligible grad students could be responsible for 100 percent of the tab or roughly an additional $2,000 per semester.



One thought on “SHIP gets set to sail, families may be left at the dock

  1. This is funny only because it ignores many things. State tax dollars help keep tuition lower for undergrads, undergrads help subsidize Master’s fellowships, and paying master’s students help fund PhDs. Many graduate students have families.

    Pretty sad that the University could be losing talented students. Really a sad statement for a school that is trying to build itself as a world-class institution. Dropout rates for graduate students will skyrocket — how will that help UMass?

    Posted by John P. | February 10, 2012, 7:35 pm

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