On May 16, UC Berkeley announced the details of its new campus-run health insurance plan, which expands coverage but increases premium rates.
The move to a new plan follows concerns over a projected $46.5 million deficit faced by the university’s previous health care provider, UC SHIP. UC Berkeley, along with four other UC campuses, withdrew from UC SHIP, citing concerns with the plan’s management by the UC Office of the President and limitations on coverage.
UC Berkeley’s plan is slated to be implemented on Aug. 15 in time for the 2013-14 academic year. Despite efforts by the university to bid out coverage to multiple student health providers, premiums will still increase this year under the new Berkeley SHIP plan.
Premiums for Berkeley SHIP will increase more than $200 annually to $2,014 for undergraduates, up from $1,782 last year under UC SHIP.
This increase accounts for some of the new benefits offered under the plan, such as the elimination of coverage caps and reductions in the cost of specialty office-visit co-pays from $20 to $15.
“We knew that no matter what plan we used, premium rates would need to increase to get the school back at the rates it needed to be at,” said Kim LaPean, communications manager at the Tang Center. “We’re happy to have the rates at the minimal increase they are at now.”
But some students say the premium increases will prove difficult for students despite the added benefits.
“To increase premiums when students are already taking on so much debt seems unfair,” said Nick Bygon, a UC Berkeley senior who is currently enrolled in UC SHIP.
But campus administrators and student leaders say the premium increases are common and reflect a national trend of increasing medical costs. The increases are also an effort to readjust rates following the miscalculated rates set under UC SHIP.
UCLA, which chose to stay with UC SHIP, has similarly seen an increase in rates, in part due to an effort to readjust to UC SHIP’s miscalculated rates. Last year, undergraduates at UCLA paid $1,602 annually for medical, dental and vision coverage. This year, rates have increased by almost $200 to $1,800.
The additional benefits of higher premiums under the Berkeley SHIP outweigh the costs, according to outgoing ASUC President Connor Landgraf. By having their own plan, UC Berkeley students will also have greater say over the benefits they receive, Landgraf said.
“Berkeley was heavily subsidizing the UC SHIP plan by several million dollars,” Landgraf said. “There were going to be premium costs regardless, and we thought it would be more fit for our school to have our own health care plan … it will be nice to have a local plan.”
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