Emmons updates health insurance policy

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Emmons Student Wellness Center adopted a new medical insurance policy that will allow students to opt out of enrolling in Occidental’s heath insurance plan for the 2014-2015 school year. The policy change, scheduled to take effect Aug. 1, will also include a potentially higher rate for students who elect to stay on the school’s plan, as well as a new $250 service fee.

Students will be able to waive their enrollment in the college’s health insurance program beginning this June. Those who do not complete the waiver will automatically be enrolled in Occidental’s health insurance plan. No hard deadline had been set for the waiver’s completion as of press time.

In updating the policy, Emmons employees also intended to address another major issue facing the current insurance policy: rising premium costs.

Due to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance providers are no longer allowed to limit the amount of money they give to insured individuals. Although taking away these limits allows for greater insurance coverage, it also means that policyholders will have to spend more money on health insurance premiums, explained Director of Student Wellness Robin Davidson.

The current school health insurance plan has already been affected by this: United Healthcare, Occidental’s insurance provider, raised the rates of its annual premium from $780 to $1151 for the 2013-14 school year, according to the Emmons health insurance website.

Emmons staff members are currently working with insurance broker Arthur J Gallagher & Co., which specializes in student health insurance, to decide by the end of the month if the college should switch to a new health insurance provider. According to Davidson, the aim is to find a cheaper premium price with equivalent coverage to Occidental’s current provider.

“Our goal is to keep the premium as low as possible but not make things such that there are going to be barriers to using the policy. We don’t want huge copays; we don’t want a policy with huge deductibles because students won’t get services when they need them because they need to put out all the cash,” Davidson said.

In addition to a possible increase in health care premiums, Emmons will now start billing an annual $250 health services fee to decrease out-of-pocket costs for students, such as copays and deductibles. The fee will be billed to students’ accounts at the start of the new school year and will be charged to students regardless of whether they are on the school’s insurance or their own.

Davidson confirmed that the changes in insurance costs will have no effect on the cost of counseling, medical and other services Emmons currently provides students. She also encouraged students to periodically check their email over the summer to ensure they will be able to fill out the waiver online in time for the next semester. In addition, she explained that students who choose to use their own insurance will need to provide their insurance cards at Emmons in order to use its services.