Nearly 900 students have signed a petition calling for the elimination of coverage caps, which are limits on the costs an insurance company will cover, in the UC Student Health Insurance Plan.
The petition was initiated by UAW Local 2865 — a union representing UC student workers — on Jan. 16 calling for the UC system to lift the $400,000 lifetime coverage cap and the annual $10,000 prescription drug cap from the UC SHIP in order to align the plan with the Affordable Care Act.
“We don’t think anyone should have to wait another day to cover the life-saving care they need,” said Charlie Eaton, a doctoral student in sociology at UC Berkeley and financial secretary of the union.
Kenya Wheeler, a former graduate student in city planning at UC Berkeley, began treatment for primary central nervous system T-Cell lymphoma in November 2011. Since then, he has met the lifetime coverage cap and has had to pay at least $10,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for his treatment.
“The university should take the opportunity to invest in the student welfare, student health care and benefits for undergraduate and graduate students,” said Wheeler.
Currently, the UC SHIP is not mandated to comply with the ACA because the plan does not meet some requirements for providing minimum essential coverage as recognized by the act, according to Jack Stobo, senior vice president for health sciences and services for the UC system.
Stobo said that the university is currently working to get the plan reclassified to comply with the ACA.
In the meantime, the university has chosen to voluntarily comply with certain components of the ACA, including making insurance coverage mandatory for registered students. But Stobo said that the UC system still needs to examine the feasibility of lifting the coverage caps.
The UC Student Association has also expressed support for the petition to have the caps lifted by the 2013-14 plan year.
“If you are a first-year law student, and you find out you have HIV or any number of chronic illnesses, the lifetime cap can be devastating by the end of your program,” said Darius Kemp, director of organizing and communications for the UCSA. “Any problem that affects any student is a problem for all students, really.”
Mitchell Handler covers academics and administration. Contact him at [email protected].