Health insurance plans for college students often rip off the students that they claim to serve, a New York State investigation into the policies offered by more than 65 institutions has found.

 Among the problems identified by Attorney General Cuomo and his staff over the course of a 17-month examination: policies that don’t pay for primary care services or prescription drugs, overpriced premiums for the benefits they provide, and atypical coverage exclusions, like not paying for injuries related to alcohol or suicide attempts. The attorney general has also unearthed conflicts of interest and unethical payments made to colleges by health insurance-related companies seeking to do business with them.

  Many colleges require students to buy a private plan selected by the institution if the students can’t show that they’re covered by family plans. The investigation focused on the institutional plans, many of which, Cuomo said, “leave students at risk while providing massive profits for insurance companies.” An insufficient plan, he added, “can have catastrophic and long-lasting effects on a young person’s life.” 

Cuomo’s findings, said James Turner, president of the American College Health Association and student health director at the University of Virginia, vindicate what many college health professionals already see in the field. “The attorney general rightly has expressed concern about poor quality insurance plans,” he said.

 Jim Mitchell, director of Student Health Services at Montana State University and spokesman for the Lookout Mountain Group, which advocates for student health care, said the frauds and inequities exposed by Cuomo are “accurate, and this sort of thing goes on all over the country.” 

Cuomo has asked the presidents of more than 300 postsecondary institutions – most in New York State, but a few dozen out-of-state and enrolling New Yorkers – to reexamine their student health insurance plans in light of his findings and to determine whether they really do meet students’ needs. 

Cuomo also set out half a dozen suggestions for how colleges can best manage their plans, including by providing adequate coverage; controlling their relationships with insurance brokers, agents and consultants; prohibiting college employees from accepting anything of value with service providers; rejecting exclusions like not covering alcohol-related injuries; and maintaining appropriate cost ratios. At institutions that mandate coverage, admissions materials should clearly disclose the cost of a plan. 

Turner applauded Cuomo’s call for improved plans. “His recommendations really affirm ACHA’s position of having very high quality student health insurance benefit plans. Most of his suggestions, in fact, follow the very guidelines we’ve set.” 

Steven M. Bloom, assistant director of federal relations for the American Council on Education, supported Turner’s position. “We agree that colleges and universities should be able to continue to offer low-cost, high-quality plans and that they would meet a certain standard,” he said, making reference to ACE and ACHA’s efforts to make sure President Obama’s health care reform law allowed for student health insurance plans’ continued existence.

 Turner said that “naiveté on the part of the college that’s putting together the benefits program” is also to blame. “Some colleges perhaps don’t look carefully enough into what’s contained in these insurance plans.”

 Laura L. Anglin, president of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, which represents New York State’s private institutions, said student health insurance is an issue her member institutions “take very seriously.”

 David M. Henahan, director of media relations for the State University of New York, said that while the system’s 64 campuses buy policies independently “because there is a great deal of difference in the needs of each SUNY campus,” the system will heed Cuomo’s recommendations. “We’ll look at them, review them and implement them in any way we can.”

 Cuomo’s investigation also included the subpoena of records from 10 of the nation’s largest health insurance companies.

 A spokesman from UnitedHealthcare said the company “continually strive[s] to improve access to quality, effective health care for all Americans, including students,” and has been working with Cuomo to help provide institutions “with affordable coverage that gives students meaningful access to health care services.”

 Matthew Wiggin, head of business communications at Aetna, said the insurer works “closely with the colleges and universities to develop health care plans that meet the health care and financial needs of their students.” The company’s average student health plan costs $1,100 a year, but its benefits vary widely by institutions.

 This is not Cuomo’s first foray into investigating bad business practices in higher education. A Democrat who is widely seen as a front runner in this fall’s New York gubernatorial race — though he has yet to formally announce his candidacy – Cuomo initiated a nationwide examination of student lenders which has resulted in the return of $3.5 million to students and families.

Learn more about International Student Health Insurance

(By Jennifer Epstein, Inside Higher Ed)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Many college-sponsored health plans offer students inferior coverage at excessive cost, state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday.

He said many plans, which are often mandatory at colleges, don’t provide the level of coverage students need. They seem like low-cost options for the schools to offer students, but since insurers pay out so little for benefits the plans can be lucrative for the insurance industry.

”A bad health insurance plan can have catastrophic and long-lasting effects on a young person’s life,” Cuomo said in a statement. ”By being informed of the problematic practices that currently exist in the industry, schools can negotiate for better health plans.”

Many don’t cover common health problems that students face, such as injuries sustained while drunk or attempting suicide. Some plans cap all coverage at less than $25,000, while others have per-illness caps of as low as $700. Many don’t include prescription drug coverage or dramatically limit that coverage.

Cuomo sent a letter to more than 300 schools, advising them to review their sponsored student health insurance plans and correct potential situations where coverage was overpriced, or so minimal it would put students at risk.

The school-sponsored student health insurance industry generates more than $1 billion of revenue per year, and about 1 million students nationwide get health insurance through such plans, Cuomo’s office said.

The plans can cost students less than $100 a year, or as much as $2,500, Cuomo said.

The office has subpoenaed 10 of the largest insurers of students and five insurance brokers, agents, and consultants as part of the investigation.

Learn more about International Student Health Insurance

(By New York Times)

NAFSA's 2010 Annual Conference & Expo

NAFSA's 2010 Annual Conference & Expo

Getting ready for NAFSA – 18 years straight in 2010. Looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new people. Just signed on for Conference Connections. Great tool to find meet those that have an interest in a topic and set your schedule. Go to Conference Connection  . You can search by focus area, knowledge community or other parameters to build your own schedule.

What are your goals for this years conference?  Let us know!!

Click here to learn more about Compass Benefits Group

An international internship is temporary work placement in a foreign country which integrates your academic learning into real world experience. An international internship is generally a one-time work experience which is related to a student’s major or career goal. The duration of an internship abroad ranges from a couple of days to one year.

An international internship usually involves students working in a professional setting under the supervision and guidance of managerial staffs, in which the purpose is to gain work experience, to enhance his or her knowledge of a career field or employment sector and to “test-drive” career possibilities.

As an intern, your internship employer perceives you as not having all required skills to perform the job, but he or she agrees on mentoring and coaching you with your progress. An international internship is generally integrated as a module of university student’s curriculum and can be either paid or unpaid depending on the location and the nature of the internship.

The United States House of Representatives yesterday took a significant step in moving closer to achieve health care reform. This update shares with you our perspective on the potential impacts to student health insurance and benefits programs as a result of yesterday’s events, as well as those anticipated to occur in the days to come.

The House voted to pass The Senate Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3590 (“PPACA”), along with a companion bill of “fixes” meant to reconcile differences between the previously competing House and Senate bills. The Senate this week is expected to address the revised Senate bill using a “reconciliation” procedure, which allows the measure to pass by a simple 51-vote majority.

 Currently, the PPACA defines Group and Individual Markets as:

o (1) GROUP MARKET.—The term ‘‘group market’’ means the health insurance market under which individuals obtain health insurance coverage (directly or through any arrangement) on behalf of themselves (and their dependents) through a group health plan maintained by an employer.

o (2) INDIVIDUAL MARKET.—The term ‘‘individual market’’ means the market for health insurance coverage offered to individuals other than in connection with a group health plan.

Given that student health plans lack an employer-employee relationship, they do not appear to qualify as group coverage as defined by the PPACA. Therefore, this subjects student health plans to individual market rating rules, which, for instance, require guarantee issue (anyone who chooses to enroll in the plan may, regardless of whether or not they are a student) and guarantee renewability (coverage period may not be limited). Group rating also is disturbed since policies subject to individual market rating rules may not be rated solely based upon past group-specific utilization history.

The PPACA references student health plans in this fashion:

o (c) STUDENT HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS.—Nothing in this title (or an amendment made by this title) shall be construed to prohibit an institution of higher education (as such term is defined for purposes of the Higher Education Act of 1965) from offering a student health insurance plan, to the extent that such requirement is otherwise permitted under applicable Federal, State or local law.

While recognition of student plans in the Senate bill is promising, Federal, State and local law require the application of individual market rating rules, as described above. We therefore believe the language referencing student plans in the Senate bill is “circular,” in that it does not guarantee the continued permissibility of student health insurance plan group rating. At this time there is no indication that the Senate will modify the bill’s student health plan reference to ensure the continued permissibility of group rating before it is signed in to law.

While a few bill provisions take effect in 2010 and 2011, most go in to effect in 2014, including the individual market rating rules. The implementation phase for health care reform legislation, if adopted, will be critical to determining the precise impact of short and long-term bill provisions to student health insurance and benefits programs.

We will continue to keep you apprised as a clearer picture of the bill’s impact emerges.  

Learn more about International Student Health Insurance

(By Atena Health Insurance)

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Planning for travel abroad program is very exciting but many people overlook planning for the “what ifs” that may occur. This can be a costly mistake, and also ruin your exchange programs reputation based on an incident. When it comes to emergency situations it’s not the problem, but it’s how the problem is attendant too.

Over the years our company has seen it all; Students becoming entrepreneurs and importing illegal goods. Students becoming “one with nature” to the point that they need mental attention.  Missionaries evacuated while natural disaster strikes in a foreign land.

Whatever the situation may be, it would be nice to know that you had medical, legal, and other advocates available 24 hours a day to mitigate your program risk.

All of our emergency protection programs are custom to our clients needs. Acquiring coverage is easy and most importantly cost effective.  Please contact us with your questions.

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In 1994, the U.S. government developed insurance standards for the Exchange Visitor Program. These standards were adopted by many schools as the required minimum levels of coverage for all its international students. The application of these standards was generally a success. Most insurers improved their plans and provided a higher level of coverage. These levels are:
• Medical benefits of at least $50,000 per accident or illness
• Repatriation of remains in the amount of $7,500
• Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $10,000
• A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.
Recently, a problem has developed. In an effort to attract students to their low cost plans, some insurance companies developed cheap, limited benefit plans. These technically meet the above requirements but they also include severe limitations. These plans do not provide the levels of coverage they highlight and have provided students a false sense of security. These plans:
• Capped major benefits such as hospital and outpatient care at very low levels. These limits can leave many expenses not covered.
• Some plans limit coverage to one year, or will not renew if the insured has a claim. This will block you from having insurance coverage for that medical condition in the second year.
• Benefits are paid at less than what doctors or hospitals charge (reasonable & customary standards).

These limitations clearly did not comply with the spirit of the USIA/INS regulations and have left many compliant students with unexpected unpaid medical bills.

The following is a suggested course of action:

Become familiar with the insurance plans you are considering. See if they truly provide the coverage they highlight. If they cap outpatient or hospitalization care, consider that the plan benefits the insurance company more than you..

Have questions about your current group or individual plan? 

Learn more about International Student Health Insurance

Health care reform has stalled with recent US political factors and a renewed focus on other economic concerns. President Obama, in the 1/27 State of the Union address, indicated however that “he will not walk away” from the issue and it is likely to brought up as part of a broader agenda.

 It is unclear how this will affect the versions of Health Care Reform that were being considered. According to Brian St. Hilaire, Senior Director Market Relations for Aetna Student Health Insurance, “the plan would have likely meant significant changes for U.S. students, but it was not clear how this would impact incoming international exchange participants. The best guess is that it would not have applied to foreign nationals.” Mr. St. Hilaire did mention that there was some speculation that the establishment of a standard level of benefits for Americans would have created be some downward pressure for DOS to match the domestic requirement for its Exchange Visitor Program.

 Other thoughts on how health care reform may affect the exchange market are that future health insurance costs may become more predictable as medical inflation is tempered. It is also likely that Americans would become more aware of their insurance’s limitations abroad and be more prudent consumers of travel medical insurance.

Learn more about International Student Health Insurance

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