UC Berkeley to abandon SHIP

Campus to return to locally managed health care plan

Andrew Kuo/File
The Tang Center provides health care for students with Berkeley SHIP. Covered California, the state’s marketplace for health insurance coverage, will provide students with another insurance option.

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Following months of controversy, UC Berkeley announced that it will withdraw from the systemwide UC Student Health Insurance Plan in the fall.

Chancellor Robert Birgeneau announced the decision to withdraw Thursday, joining four other UC campuses that are abandoning at least some parts of UC SHIP. The announcement comes after the systemwide Council of Chancellors approved various changes to UC SHIP, including campus withdrawal, in a meeting Wednesday.

“Today I am stating my support for the students’ position and, following their urging, announcing that UC Berkeley will be withdrawing from UC SHIP and returning to a UC Berkeley-operated student health insurance plan,” Birgeneau said in a statement.

Beginning Aug. 15, UC Berkeley will transition back into a campus-managed, fully funded insurance plan similar to what the campus had in place for decades before joining UC SHIP in 2011.

UC SHIP follows a self-funded model in which those paying the costs, in this case the UC system, are responsible for absorbing the plan’s risks, according to Bahar Navab, UC Berkeley’s student representative to the UC SHIP Advisory Board. Fully funded plans place risk on a separate insurance provider but generally have higher premiums.

UC SHIP currently has a $400,000 lifetime cap and a $10,000 prescription drug coverage cap. As a fully funded plan, UC Berkeley-provided insurance would also have to comply with the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits these coverage caps.

In a letter sent to Birgeneau last month by UC Berkeley student representatives, Navab and ASUC President Connor Landgraf wrote that poor management from the UC Office of the President and a desire for more local control were some of the reasons students favored withdrawing from UC SHIP.

“I think that localized control and more decentralized governance is what’s best for our campus right now,” Navab said. “It’s a two-year plan, and we can always re-evaluate after two years. If UC SHIP has changed enough that we want to go back to it, we always have that option.”

UC Berkeley’s decision to withdraw comes in light of UC SHIP’s projected $46.5 million net deficit, which earlier prompted the possibility of premium increases across the board.

According to Kim LaPean, communications manager at the Tang Center, the new plan is expected to include a 13 percent premium increase for undergraduates and a 20 percent increase for graduate students, though the campus has yet to finalize rates. LaPean said benefits will not decrease under the campus plan and that officials are working to ensure that students will be able to see the same outside carriers.

“Berkeley students were really clear that they did not want to lose benefits,” LaPean said. “The changes that they’re going to see are all going to be in the favor of the student.”

Other campuses that decided to partially withdraw from UC SHIP include UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside and UC Santa Barbara. Some campuses, like UCLA, have opted to stick with UC SHIP.

Students with coverage through UC SHIP next year will also see changes, including lifting the lifetime maximum, annual pharmacy cap and other caps on essential care. The UC Office of the President is currently reviewing options to close the deficit, but UC spokesperson Brooke Converse said students will not have to pay for the deficit through premium increases.

“Our job right now is to respect the campuses that want to leave,” said Scott Arno, the UCLA student representative to UC SHIP Advisory Board. “No campus should be forced into this plan. We need to make it run better so that they’ll want to come back.”

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