By Jessica Medearis
MSCSA Associate Director
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system will cease enrolling students in health insurance policies through their college or university as of August 2014. The change, supported by the Minnesota State College Student Association (MSCSA), comes as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) places new requirements on coverage and opens up insurance options to students through health care exchanges.
Currently, students have the option to purchase a plan through United Healthcare Student Resources, but the plan has had very low enrollment due to the high cost of coverage and the limited benefits provided by the policy. Less than 300 students were enrolled in this plan in 2011, compared to the 95,547 full-time students in the MnSCU system. Student coverage costs about $2,200 per year, with family coverage costing $7,500 or more each year. International students and some university students are required to have coverage. The MnSCU system will continue to require international students to purchase the system-offered health plan and intend to review this policy requirement in 2015.
The Affordable Care Act requires most U.S. citizens to carry health insurance, regardless of their status as students. This requirement goes into effect January 1, 2014 and those who remain uninsured will be assessed a fine, ramping up from $95 in 2014 to $695 by 2016. The law is expected to have a significant impact on the student health insurance market due to its requirements of higher levels of benefit, the ability for young adults to remain covered by a parent’s policy up to age 26, and the implementation of subsidies and discounts that allow individuals to purchase private coverage through state and federal exchanges at much lower rates–10-30 percent on average, of the current MnSCU policy premium. This issue has been under review by a taskforce within MnSCU for nearly a year.
Over 20% of MnSCU college students are currently uninsured, according to a recent statewide survey on student health insurance preferences conducted by MSCSA. Of those uninsured, 52% cite cost as the primary reason.
“While we want students to have as many options for health insurance as possible, the high cost of MnSCU’s current ‘voluntary’ plan just doesn’t make sense,” said Kelly Charpentier-Berg, President of the MSCSA, “The alternative would be to mandate insurance for all students in order to get a lower premium, and students oppose a mandate. We’re happy that students will now have access to much more affordable options elsewhere.”
Students currently enrolled in MnSCU’s health care plan should review their insurance options now, as open enrollment in Minnesota’s exchange, MNsure, ends March 31. The current MnSCU policy expires in August 2014. Students seeking coverage can enroll in a plan through the MNsure exchange, apply for public insurance programs, or remain insured (through the age of 26) on a parent’s policy.
On MSCSA’s student health insurance survey, when asked if they planned to purchase a health insurance policy in the next 12 months, 49% of respondents said “yes” or “unsure,” leading MSCSA representatives to conclude that students are in need of health insurance information on campus. MnSCU plans to send communications explaining the change and available options to all affected students in January and February, and will assist schools with arranging for MNsure “navigators” to visit campus and enroll interested students in health plans.