Student leadership forum at Tang Center discusses improving communication, SHIP waiver process

Rachael Garner/File
Rachael Garner/File

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About 25 student leaders and University Health Services representatives met during a Tuesday forum at the Tang Center to discuss ways to improve information about the Student Health Insurance Plan and communication between students and UHS.

The forum was co-hosted by ASUC senator-elect Will Morrow and UHS, and it included mostly ASUC and Graduate Assembly senators and representatives so that student leaders could better disseminate information to their constituents about UHS communication updates and specifically about changes to the SHIP waiver form after last summer’s waiver denial debacle.

“It was definitely a difficult summer for all those involved,” Morrow said, adding that UHS is doing “a very good job of responding to what went wrong so that it is a smoother process for everyone.”

SHIP is a major medical insurance plan that registered students, who are automatically enrolled into it, can opt out of if they already have comprehensive health insurance from another provider.

According to Kim LaPean, Tang Center’s communication manager, approximately 70 percent of UC Berkeley students are enrolled in SHIP.

Communication regarding SHIP waivers currently includes emails, mailed postcards, eBill notifications and Be Well @ Cal social media updates. LaPean said one of Tang Center’s main goals is to increase visibility on campus.

In addition, the student advocate’s office created infographics about the SHIP waiver form for distribution online and on UHS-related pamphlets in the hopes of alleviating the spread of misinformation through “waiver hacks” posted on social media that provide a list to “pass” the application.

“What we’re trying to do is shift the conversation away from answering the question right to making sure your health insurance is fitting what you’ll need to be healthy,” ASUC Student Advocate Rishi Ahuja said.

Because of users’ inexperience with the health insurance process and unfamiliar jargon, the strengthened fall 2014 waiver criteria — aimed at blocking health insurance plans that do not sufficiently cover users or have large out-of-pocket costs — led to 7,500 appeals for waiver denials. The UHS normally processes 1,500 during fall semesters, according to LaPean.

“In our effort to make sure we had a strong waiver requirement to match the plans that were out there on the marketplace, we ended up really confusing thousands and thousands of families,” LaPean said.

Requirements to opt out of SHIP were subsequently lightened in August to allow some families to waive out who previously could not. The stipulations were then finalized for the spring 2015 SHIP waiver application.

Students raised other issues related to SHIP, such as international students needing additional help navigating the American health insurance industry, the rising cost of SHIP despite it being “competitively priced,” according to SHIP benefits manager Crissa Connella, and the lack of information regarding financial aid potentially covering SHIP.

The deadline to submit a SHIP waiver is July 15.


Contact Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ayoonhendricks.