WVU mulls mandatory insurance
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 00:02
Health insurance might be required for all West Virginia University students as early as next year.
Yesterday, WVU released a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking an outside vendor to develop a comprehensive health insurance coverage plan for students. The proposal would also lead to the plan being offered to WVU’s divisional campuses, including Potomac State College and WVU Tech.
Cathy Yura, assistant vice president for WELLWVU: The Students’ Center of Health, said the RFP isn’t a guarantee of action, but it does indicate the potential for considerable changes to the current policy.
"The RFP means they are just out there looking. This is a long process, so it’s going to take a while before anybody gets anything you can really bring out," she said. "They’re just looking for different plans and costs and trying to make sure it’s the right thing."
RFPs are typically used to gauge interest and identify potential courses of action for a variety of topics. They allow the University to garner specific information that can be used to aid decision making.
Currently, WVU offers coverage through Aetna Student Health. The coverage is optional for most students but Graduate Assistants and international students are automatically enrolled in the plan unless they provide proof of comparable coverage.
The idea of mandatory health insurance is not a new one and is a present policy in schools such as the University of Maryland, The Ohio State University and Rutgers University.
New Jersey state law requires all students of public or private higher educational institutions to possess "adequate health insurance." No such law exists in West Virginia, but students could serve to benefit from such an arrangement.
Shelley Sheppeck, an insurance coordinator at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said their university’s policy ultimately provides students with care they couldn’t otherwise get.
"What we’re able to do for our students is – yes, we have mandatory insurance, but the policy we offer is typically better than the parents’ offer, and it works very well here in Boulder, as well as nationwide," she said.
Sheppeck, who also spent 20 years as an insurance broker and owned an insurance agency, said universities can cater their coverage to meet the
students’ needs, as well as help clarify what is otherwise a difficult concept to understand.
"Coming from the broker world, it really is a great thing for students, and how the university decides to implement that – that’s up to the university," she said.
"Really, what we do is cater our group policy to what our students’ needs are. A lot of that is prescription drugs, a lot of that is free birth control – which is covered under health care reform under most policies – and we also cover nongeneric (prescription drugs).
"Parents don’t always understand how (insurance) works. Nobody understands health care reform. Everyone is at a loss, saying, ‘What am I supposed to do?’ and I can tell you that our student health plan – you would not be able to find that (good) of a plan at that price."
Students at the University of Colorado at Boulder are automatically enrolled in the university-offered health care plan. To exit the coverage and use one from an outside source, such as one provided by parents, students must opt out and fill out a waiver. This can be done online.
The RFP indicates that there is a chance WVU could adapt a similar "hard-waiver" policy.