Congress members urge changes to UC SHIP

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House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi responded to student concerns with the UC Student Health Insurance Plan Wednesday, urging UC President Mark Yudof to lift coverage caps and ensure easier access to preventive care.

Pelosi, along with Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, were among 10 members of Congress who signed a letter to Yudof in an effort to better align the plan with the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The letter follows yesterday’s protest against the UC SHIP premium increases, coverage caps and other restrictions.

“While we understand that UC SHIP is not legally required to adopt these protections as a self-insured student health plan,” the letter said. “It is troubling that the health plan of one of the world’s most prestigious university systems would not adopt this industry standard.”

The UC SHIP is projected to have a cumulative $57 million deficit by the end of the 2012 to 2013 plan year, prompting the possibility of student premium increases by an average of 25 percent systemwide, including a 19.8 percent increase for UC Berkeley students.

“We understand what Nancy Pelosi is asking for in the letter and a good deal of what she is referring to in the letter we are already looking into and we are already in the process of working toward the same goals she mentions in the letter,” said UCOP spokesperson Brooke Converse.

The UC SHIP has been scrutinized by student groups and unions, including UAW Local 2865 which represents UC Student Workers, for its $400,000 lifetime coverage cap and $10,000 annual prescription drug cap. A group of about 50 students and workers protested outside the Tang Center on Wednesday against the proposed increase and coverage caps.

“The letter shows that UCOP is way outside the mainstream in it’s denial of coverage of life saving care to students,” said Charlie Eaton, a doctoral student in sociology at UC Berkeley and financial secretary of the union. “It’s time for UCOP to commit that they will eliminate lifetime and annual caps on coverage in 2013.”

The letter added that making these plan changes is especially important for the upcoming 2013 – 2014 school year.

“We believe this is especially critical in the coming 2013-2014 school year, as the market changes and grows more competitive with full implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” the letter said. “UC students and student workers should have the access to the same health care protections that millions of other students, student workers and Americans already enjoy.”

Mitchell Handler covers academics and administration. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @mitchellhandler.