Students with dependents watch sinking SHIP

CAMPUS ISSUES: UC Berkeley student-parents and those with spouses are forced to walk the plank into a sea of insurance programs

UC Berkeley’s plan to terminate health insurance for dependents of students will cut off a valuable option for a population that is already marginalized on our campus and faces a greater degree of responsibility than most.

Beginning in the fall, UC Berkeley’s Student Health Insurance Plan will no longer cover dependents, forcing some 200 spouses, partners and children of students on SHIP to find alternate health-care coverage outside the campus provider.

According to their websites for student health insurance, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Irvine, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and UC Riverside all provide voluntary health insurance plans for dependents. That UC Berkeley is choosing to rescind this coverage is not only inconsistent with the standard set by UC campuses collectively but also contradicts the campus’s commitment to supporting its students individually and as part of a diverse community. As Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has said, “We want diversity not just for the sake of diversity, but for the sake of a much more robust — and in the end more productive — community, where everyone can perform at their highest.”

But in an effort to keep premium costs down, the campus — adhering to recommendations from two student health-advisory committees — has opted to remove dependent coverage because of its high overall cost. Even though the affected students make up only about 1 percent of SHIP beneficiaries, we as a community must be invested in protecting students’ families. For the sake of maintaining the diversity of our student body, we all can sacrifice a little to live up to the social ideals on which UC Berkeley prides itself.

Most importantly, the fact that this portion of beneficiaries are some of the “costliest” SHIP users, according to information presented last year at a Graduate Assembly meeting, does not mean that they should be set adrift to search for other coverage but rather that they are very much in need of the excellent coverage that SHIP provides and should continue to have access to it.

The decision to drop dependents from the campus’ SHIP program comes in the wake of the successful passage of the Student Editorial Board-endorsed wellness referendum, an initiative to expand campus wellness services by improving current programs and providing new resources, such as relaxation and meditation spaces. The decision to drop dependent coverage directly contradicts the spirit of such a referendum.

As it is, most clubs, extracurricular activities, classes and office hours aren’t designed to accommodate students with families or with responsibilities outside school. Removing this coverage may alienate nontraditional students from a campus that is already difficult to navigate.

As University Health Services steers SHIP toward low premium costs, it needs to map out routes that reduce costs overall and to remember its commitment to the well being of all students.

Editorials represent the collective opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

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