A month before the expiration of dependent coverage under UC Berkeley’s Student Health Insurance Plan, some students have struggled with whether to sign up for a campus grant that would help them afford new health insurance but requires releasing their ability to make legal claims against the University of California.
The campus gave notice in April that SHIP’s dependent coverage, along with other voluntary plans, would be terminated in order to prevent sharp increases in the cost of insurance for all students. These increases would have raised the cost of SHIP enrollment to an additional $193 per undergraduate and $384 per graduate student.
After the campus identified some students significantly affected by the change, University Health Services made available a Transition Assistance Fund, a one-time grant to offset the premium increase that students may face when purchasing new plans, according to Kim LaPean, the Tang Center’s communications manager.
To complete the application, students need to submit proof of enrollment and sign several forms, including an agreement to waive the right to file legal claims against the UC Board of Regents regarding the termination of dependent coverage.
“It’s atrocious that they did not inform me of this until after I had purchased insurance,” said Arran Phipps, a campus doctoral candidate in physics whose son needs special treatment for his Type 1 diabetes.
Phipps said UHS ensured him financial support before he purchased a new plan, which will amount to $9,926 each year, or more than double what he paid under SHIP. He said he was informed about the agreement Thursday when he went to apply for the Transition Assistance Fund.
According to LaPean, the agreement is meant to indicate that through a distribution of funds, students have resolved the problems associated with the termination of dependent coverage.
For Phipps, who may still need two years to pursue his degree, a one-year offer is “unreasonable.” He said there is no option for him but to graduate next year to find employment in order to ensure his children’s health care.
“I will not be bullied into signing away my rights,” Phipps said, adding that he is exploring his legal options.
Jackie Zaneri, head steward of United Auto Workers Local 2865, a UC student-worker union, said she is concerned that such an agreement will block people from funding or will force them into signing away their legal rights.
Mark Gergen, a professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law, said it is not a “particularly aggressive example” for the campus to ask for a legal claim release with respect to health insurance if it does not believe that it is legally obligated to make these payments.
UHS has consulted with many students, but according to LaPean, no one has completed the forms yet. She expects that forms will begin coming in toward the end of the month as students purchase new insurance plans.
The union continues to seek legal advice, and “as UHS acts aggressively to deny student families their rights, it is looking more likely that some student families may take legal action,” Zaneri said.