After Tuition, Books and Accommodation, Colleges’ Increasing Medical Fees Caused Worry

You have compared tuition fees. Consider the cost of on-campus housing. Even digest student meal plan prices.

But have you thought about how much your son or daughter’s dream school would charge for health insurance?

You may be shocked.

Hawley Montgomery-Downs was thrilled when her daughter Bryn Tronco won a scholarship that pays half of her annual tuition of $63,000 at the University of Southern California. But as soon as the school year started in August, she was shocked to receive a bill from USC for $3,000 to cover both student health insurance and student access fees. on-campus clinics and other services. Back home in West Virginia, she pays nothing for her daughter’s health insurance through the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, which serves middle- and lower-class families.

Montgomery-Downs, who lives in Morgantown, West Virginia, was particularly upset that USC not only charged her for health insurance but also charged her $1,050 annual medical fee. She said: “It would be great if she went to the student health center, but with the insurance to go to the primary care provider, I feel like I am paying double.

Mandatory health insurance and medical service fees are common at colleges as a condition of enrollment, says Stephen Beckley, a health and wellbeing consultant in Fort Collins, Colorado for colleges. While medical fees can help reduce a student’s premium, parents may feel as though they are paying twice as much. “It’s a big conundrum for our industry,” he said.

For parents, these large payments can come as a surprise, making an affordable education even less. After all, students can save by picking up a sketchy meal plan and cooking their own dinner or buying used textbooks, but there’s no way around it but the required medical fees.

Costs vary by school but can often run up to several thousand dollars a year — costs that health care advocates say parents and students should consider carefully to make sure they understand the your choice while also meeting the requirements of the university.

Students can apply for an exemption from university health insurance by demonstrating that they have their own insurance or are covered by their parents’ insurance that meets specific university criteria. Schools often like to see that the student’s own insurance covers local doctors and hospitals at low out-of-pocket costs. However, student medical fees generally cannot be waived.

USC, a private college, fee $2,273 a year for its Aetna student health insurance plan. The averages for public colleges are $2,712 and $3,540 at private universities, according to one report. survey in 2022 by Beckley’s company, Hodgkins Beckley & Lyon.

Other famous colleges charge much higher fees, such as $6,768 at Stanford and $4,163 at Dartmouth College.

The University of Montana charges $4,700, and most services at the school health clinic are fully covered by the school health plan. The University of Colorado charged $3,976.

at HarvardStudents purchasing school insurance pay $4,080 annually and $1,304 for student medical fees.

The simplest solution to avoid these fees is for students to follow their parents’ health policy – ​​something the Affordable Care Act allows until they turn 26. But that only effective if the student’s parents have a policy that meets the comprehensive requirements of the school and provides -network coverage where the school is located.

Otherwise, parents may want to shop among the ACA marketplace plans to see if they can find a bargain. If their income is low enough, students can sometimes apply for Medicaid or a CHIP program in the states where they attend. But this strategy also has limitations. Students must meet the residency requirements of the state where they attend school and parents cannot claim them as dependents on tax returns. CHIP coverage also expires after the student turns 19.

Schools that charge students for medical fees and claim insurance say the funding helps cover services at on-campus medical clinics that would otherwise cost students hundreds of dollars a five or more.

The USC Student Health Fee — including basic and preventive health services — also helps schools pay for services that are not usually covered by insurance, such as monitoring disease outbreaks on campus.

doctor Sarah Van Orman, medical director of USC Student Health, noted that the student health fee provides funding for additional campus mental health providers and a group focused on education and sexual assault prevention — services available to students without any copay. She said these additions are important because, even with insurance, students can still have a hard time finding private advisors to help in a timely manner, and if they do, students costs will be shared.

“Student health fees support our public health infrastructure on campus,” says Van Orman.

Because students can get primary health care services on campus at the student health center, few of them seek insurance-covered care, and that helps keep them safe. Lower monthly premium for Aetna student health plan. “These are all working together and are not overlapping at all,” says Van Orman.

USC’s student health insurance has an in-network annual deductible of $450 and a $20 copay for doctor’s office visits. It also offers comprehensive services nationwide, so students are protected at school and at home — even if it’s nationwide. According to Van Orman, about half of USC students purchase Aetna student insurance.

Other universities have a different strategy. Eg, George Washington UniversityMandatory health insurance covers the services of the on-campus health center. Unless they’re exempt, undergraduates must sign up for a student health plan — which costs $2,700 a year — unless they prove they have another insurance plan that meets the criteria. school. The health plan premium entitles students to many free services at the student health center, including medical office visits, certain prescriptions, and routine screenings for communicable diseases. sexually transmitted.

Beckley said university rules vary on whether they allow students to choose insurance plans other than what the school offers.

USC allows students to purchase an alternative policy through their parent’s plan or on the ACA marketplace as long as it meets school requirements including comprehensive health insurance in the Los Angeles area and Preventive care coverage with zero cost sharing. Out-of-state Medicaid or CHIP programs do not meet the university’s criteria because they do not have a network of routine care providers in California.

That’s bad news for Montgomery-Downs.

“This was not something we were budgeting for,” she said of USC’s medical expenses.

Montgomery-Downs, a former associate professor at West Virginia University and now a freelance editor, said she didn’t know what to do when she received a USC medical bill. She thought Bryn, who turned 19 last week, would initially be covered because her CHIP plan provides coverage for treatment in emergency rooms and out-of-the-box urgent care centers. state. And Montgomery-Downs wants to make sure her daughter has health insurance over the summer and the holidays while at home.

Unsure about which market coverage options would meet the school’s rules and deadlines, she decided to use the Aetna student program that USC offers.

A look at the market options on Covered California shows that $2,200 for the USC Aetna student program is a competitive price. The lowest-priced comparable PPO program offered by California Blue Cross will provide Bryn with a nationwide network of providers that cost about $2,400 a year factoring in government subsidies. based on their family income. The PPO offers some coverage to out-of-network doctors and hospitals.

Montgomery-Downs gets market coverage and says she’s going to buy a market plan for Bryn for next school year. She said she wished they had known about all medical expenses at the time of admission rather than just before class started.

“It was all a nightmare, even for someone with the privilege of time and some understanding of these bureaucracies — higher education and health insurance,” says Montgomery-Downs.

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Along with Policy Analysis and Exploration, KHN is one of the three main activities in Vietnam KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a funded non-profit organization that provides information on health issues to the nation.


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