Aaron Smith is learning the hard way that student health insurance has limits. After breaking his wrist snowboarding in 2008 and twisting his knee playing soccer last year, the 28-year-old Georgetown University law student racked up $925.69 in medical bills, his share of the cost under Georgetown’s UnitedHealthcare student health plan. Smith, who also heads up the Young Invincibles, an advocacy organization that aims to protect the health-care interests of young adults, says his experience is not unusual for people in that age group. “These kind of accidents do happen,” he says.

The new health overhaul law is expected to help a lot of young people, whether students or not. One widely publicized provision taking effect in October will allow young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. Many insurers have said they’ll implement it in time for students graduating this spring.

But for students who, like Smith, are older than 26, and for those who can’t take advantage of the law because their parents don’t have coverage or for other reasons, student health plans may be the only option. And unfortunately, many college plans offer limited protection, even for this generally healthy group. “Sixty percent of the plans out there are pure junk,” says Stephen Beckley, a health-care management consultant for colleges and universities who’s based in Fort Collins, Colo.

In some important ways, the new law has the potential to stiffen the backbone of student plans. Starting in October, all health plans, including college ones, must eliminate lifetime limits on coverage and most annual limits as well. The law also requires health plans to spend 80 to 85 percent of the premiums they collect on clinical services and quality measures starting next year, or give consumers a rebate.

It can’t happen soon enough. Insurance plans don’t typically limit coverage for particular conditions, and most have maximum coverage limits overall of $1 million or more. But a Government Accountability Office report found that nearly all of the 194 student plans reviewed had maximum benefit limits, mostly on a per-condition basis; and the typical plan paid a maximum lifetime benefit of $25,000 per illness or injury.

For Gillian Mason, enrolled in the combined master’s/PhD program in American studies at Boston University, the $2,000 annual limit on prescription drug coverage in her Aetna student plan is an ongoing problem. Now 30, Mason arrived at BU in 2001. Suffering from cyclic vomiting syndrome, “I burned through that drug cap by March or April of every year,” she says.

Now, though her condition is under control, Mason says she still spends at least $1,000 out-of-pocket annually for drugs. A university spokesman says that this year she could have upgraded her coverage to an overall policy limit of $500,000 a year, including drugs, for an additional $623.

All students should carefully evaluate their school plans and compare them to other options. Look at the deductible and out-of-pocket spending limits to understand how much you may owe in addition to premiums, says Sara Collins, vice president of the Commonwealth Fund, a health-care research group. It’s also a good idea to eyeball specifics that often affect young adults, including emergency care, maternity coverage and mental health benefits, she says.

The extent to which the health law forces further changes to student plans will depend in large part on how the plans are defined by federal regulators, say health policy experts. Starting in 2014, individual plans will have to offer a comprehensive package of “essential health benefits.” Large-group plans, however, won’t have to meet that requirement. “The statute doesn’t recognize non-employer group plans,” says Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University.

Georgetown law student Smith says he’s encouraged that the health law will give students like him more options. They may qualify for the expanded state-federal Medicaid program for the poor. Alternatively, they could buy health insurance on the new state-based exchanges starting in 2014.

When that happens, “it could marginalize the college plans,” he says. Or maybe they’ll become better plans. Either way, students are likely to come out ahead.

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(By Michelle Andrews, Washington Post)

Many college health-insurance plans fail to provide students with minimum coverage and often pay out far less in benefits than they collect in premiums, New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo says.

Plans with low coverage limits, numerous exclusions and high premiums “leave students at risk while providing massive profits for insurance companies,” the high-profile AG and likely NYS gubernatorial candidate said in a statement yesterday. He said his office has subpoenaed 10 insurers that are big players in the college health market as well as five insurance brokers, agents and others in the field.

Aetna, one of those receiving a subpoena requesting information, defended its plans. “The plans are very affordable based on the population; they average about $1,100 a year” and cover students “at home, at school and even internationally,” a spokesman told the New York Times.

A big issue here is the loss ratio — how much of their premiums collected are paid out in benefits. Plans in NYS usually have to have a ratio of at least 65% but Cuomo’s investigation found college plans that didn’t. Under the new federal health overhaul, most large plans, including college-sponsored offerings, the NYT says, will be required to have loss ratios of 85%.

But the federal overhaul will affect the college plans in another way because parents will be able to keep coverage for children until their offspring reach age 26, likely cutting into the college market. Cuomo said the college market — made up of generally healthy students — produces more than $1 billion in revenue for the insurers, which charge premiums anywhere from $100 to $2,500 a year for each policy.

Cuomo has written to more than 300 colleges advising them to check their plans for shortcomings and for conflicts with the new fed rules. No legal action has resulted from any of this, but memories are still fresh about Cuomo’s probe into student-loan practices that shook up a lot of colleges and lenders starting in 2007.

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(By James White, WSJ)

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.

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(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.

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(By New York Times)

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)

© 2017 Compass Benefits Group