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Students, What Health Insurance Is Right for You?

New guide should make it easier to select BU or outside plan

All BU students are required to have health insurance, but the question for many is, what is the best plan to select? For some, enrolling in BU’s health insurance plan makes the most sense. For others, a different option—such as staying on your parents’ plan—may be the better way to go. A new guide from Student Health Services (SHS) is designed to help students and their families make the right call.

The guide, now live on the Student Health Services website, describes in detail what is covered under BU’s Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), which helps cover off-campus, non-SHS care, and gives examples of when it may make more sense for a student to choose a different plan. Students covered by their parents’ insurance can remain on those plans until they reach 26 under President Obama’s health care plan, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

Judy Platt, SHS director, says students and their families should compare the cost of the student remaining on the family plan versus enrolling in SHIP and decide which option is more affordable. Approximately 40 percent of BU’s full-time students choose SHIP, which is offered through Aetna Health Insurance, Platt says. Plan rates can be found here.

All full-time, three-quarter time, and international undergraduate and graduate students are automatically enrolled in the SHIP basic plan and can upgrade to the plus plan (a higher level of coverage, but more expensive) if they choose. Part-time and online students can opt to enroll during the open enrollment period, which is through September 30, 2016. Freshmen are signed up as soon as they matriculate, but students can waive the plan provided they have other insurance. This year, the deadline to unenroll is September 30, 2016.

“We wanted to provide our students and parents with relevant information to help them make an informed decision about health care coverage,” Platt says. “Unfortunately, we have many examples of students who believed their outside health insurance plan would cover medical costs and ended up paying high deductibles because the providers they saw were out of network. The worst scenarios involve situations where medical services are not covered at all because the plan only covers emergency visits and not routine care.”

A student typically visits SHS for issues like urgent primary care (for instance, a stomach virus or a sprain or muscle injury) or behavioral health needs or to be assessed if they are struggling with substance abuse. Students concerned about violence from someone they know or have a relationship with or about sexual assault may also visit. All of these services are covered by the University’s yearly SHS fee, which cannot be waived.

Health insurance—either SHIP or another plan—provides coverage when students require off-campus care such as hospitalization or X-rays or if they need to see a specialist for issues like severe asthma or diabetes.

Platt says that while BU has no financial stake in promoting SHIP, the plan does offer certain advantages, among them predictability (fixed costs for network providers and coinsurance), convenience (a large network of participating providers), and flexibility (choose from a basic or plus plan), all while keeping out-of-pocket costs as low as possible.

As mental health needs continue to grow for college-age students, the SHIP plan has another advantage as well, Platt says: it offers an unlimited number of counseling visits and requires only a $10 copay for referrals to in-network providers.

To make an informed decision, students and parents are encouraged to use this worksheet to compare potential costs of SHIP versus another plan.

“We do not want our students and parents to worry about how they will pay for off-campus care in an urgent situation,” says Platt. “Our goal is that students and parents will be able to make an informed decision about their insurance coverage and know how they will pay for services that are not provided at SHS. Many of our students will find that the BU-sponsored Aetna student health insurance plan is often the most cost-effective choice for them.”

For more information, visit the Student Health Services website.

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Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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