Students discuss how to alleviate SHIP deficit at open forum

A sign reading "University Health Services" points into the Tang Center, UC Berkeley's health center
Randy Adam Romero/Staff

Students proposed alternate solutions to closing the UC Student Health Insurance Plan deficit at an open forum Tuesday night.

At the meeting, the first in a series of forums to collect student input on the issue, Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab led a presentation aimed at informing students of UC SHIP and stimulating proposals to deal with the insurance plan’s projected $57 million deficit.

The UC Office of the President announced in January the possibility of student premiums increasing by an average of 25 percent systemwide to close the deficit, including a 19.8 percent increase for UC Berkeley students.

Students weighed in on several options to tackle the deficit, including the administration’s proposal to raise premiums across the board and an option to increase SHIP users’ necessary c0-payments for office visits.

Charlie Eaton, a financial secretary for UAW Local 2865 representing UC student workers, said that he opposed any alternatives that could disproportionately affect individuals heavily relying on the health plan.

“The people who need the services the most are usually folks who have income problems,” Eaton said.

Students at the meeting also discussed raising health premiums more steeply for graduate students due to their higher usage of the health plan. According to Claudia Covello, executive director of University Health Services, only 55 percent of undergraduates are enrolled in UC SHIP, compared to 90 percent of graduate students that use the service.

Students at the meeting proposed a final option to “jump SHIP” and revert to a UC Berkeley self-funded insurance program that the campus used until 2010.

“If we start causing deterrents to students using care, then what’s the point of SHIP?” Navab said.

According to Navab, no solid financial figures for any of the three options were provided, yet students are rushed to form a collective response before the systemwide Council of Chancellors decides whether to continue using UC SHIP or to implement an alternative health insurance plan for students by June 1.

“We’ve pushed for numbers, and (the university) hasn’t given any,” Navab said. “They said these options can only mitigate — not eliminate — the problem.”

The next two student forums will take place Thursday from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at 105 Boalt Hall and Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at 88 Dwinelle Hall, and they will be open to the public.

Virgie Hoban covers Research and Ideas. Contact her at [email protected]