Student health insurance provides safety for students

Josh Echt

Alternative coverage for those no longer under parents’ policy

A fall from a ladder cost Jeffrey Fuller’s friend a trip to the hospital.

A bill showed up totaling $50,000.

Fuller learned a lesson: Always have health insurance.

His friend negotiated with the doctors and insurance companies and lowered his bill because he had no health insurance. However, the mishap stuck with Fuller.

“Actually, it only cost $35,000,” Fuller said. “We held benefit concerts that raised $10,000, which helped him out.”

Fuller uses student health insurance at Kent State. He said university insurance is cheaper than similar universities such as Bowling Green because graduate assistants receive a partial subsidization, which is paid for by the university.

“If you are a graduate assistant here, your student health insurance costs are cheaper than if you are a graduate student but not an assistant,” Fuller said.

Most of the 1,200 students who participate in the insurance program are graduate students or international students, said Dawn Bellino, University Health Services account clerk.

The main benefit of University Health Services’ student health insurance is that it does not collect a large deductible or co-pay from students, Bellino said.

Student insurance costs $1,350 for a full calendar year – a tuition benefit kicks in with a deductible and co-pay, which means students do not need to pay for office visits or monthly premiums after their initial payment.

However, they pay a $10 co-pay for generic pharmaceuticals up to a maximum of $500.

A deductible is an amount of covered medical expense that must be paid before the benefits kick in. For instance, someone with a $500 deductible using regular insurance will pay $100 for his or her first office visit, $150 for his or her second visit, and so on until medical costs reach $500. After the $500 level is met, insurance foots the bill, Bellino said.

“If you are healthy and bank on not getting injured, you can have a high deductible and lower monthly premiums,” she said.

Those who utilize the insurance more would use the lower deductible, she said. However, a lower-deductible-paying customer may have higher monthly premiums, Bellino said.

For student insurance, a benefit is that the university’s policy is based on the Aetna system, which is a nationwide network, Bellino said.

“Your student health insurance works in the Northeastern Ohio area,” she said.

She said the insurance is helpful because students will begin ‘aging out’ of their parents’ policy, usually by the time they are 25.

“Usually, by that time, insurance companies recommend that students purchase their own policies,” Bellino said.

Other options available

The university chose its provider, The Chickering Group, in August 2005 via a request for proposals, or RFP. The RFP is a document exploring what the university is looking for in its provider, said Nick Sukalac, University Health Services manager of insurance and billing. The university also offers health insurance to its faculty and workers.

Students are eligible to purchase the plan at the beginning of the school year with a four- to six-week time period, Sukalac said.

However, most undergraduates still use their parents’ plan, he added.

UHS accepts most major insurance networks, such as Anthem and Medical Mutual of Ohio, if students decide to purchase or use insurance on their own, said

“If students choose not to purchase the university insurance, we will provide options regarding major medical carriers and specific referrals,” Sukalac said.

If students do not have health insurance they can pay bills with cash, credit card, debit card or even FlashCash, he added.

“Not all students pay for our health insurance,” he said. “If they have outside insurance, it is billed to their regular provider.”


Fuller said he wished for more communication in the change to a new healthcare provider.

Instead of paying a $300 charge at the beginning of each semester for year-round coverage, the new system in place forced him to pay a $500 bill in August for the whole year, he said.

“There was only two weeks’ notice for the change, even though it is cheaper,” Fuller said. “International students are highly recommended to carry insurance, and they had to scramble to get the extra money to pay their bill in time.”

The plan required international students to make a quick adjustment in August, said Debra Lyons, immigration assistant for International Student and Scholar Services. They had to pay their bill as soon as possible, Lyons said.

“Some of the international students were just beginning to get used to college life and had to deal with an immediate payment in August before the payment time expired,” Lyons said.

However, she said University Health Services made an effort to help international students and English as a Second Language students interpret and fill out forms.

“They help the students because the forms are confusing, especially for someone with English as his or her second language,” Lyons said.

Fuller said the program’s costs are cheaper relative to other universities. However, he said he just wishes for better communication between the groups and University Health Services.

“I just hope next year there are no surprises,” he said.

Contact features correspondent Josh Echt at [email protected].