University of California President Mark Yudof stated that the UC is considering removing the cap on UC student health insurance, after Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Lois Capps and eight other congressional representatives submitted a request last Friday.
As a self-funded insurance plan, UC SHIP is precluded from a ban on health insurance caps mandated by the U.S. Affordable Care Act. However, over 7,000 students have signed a petition calling for the cap’s removal after a story surfaced about a UC Berkeley student who was almost forced to stop chemotherapy sessions when he reached the maximum amount of care.
Removing the $400,000 lifetime cap would cost students an extra $30 to $50, while removing the annual $10,000 pharmaceutical cap would result in a 1.5 percent increase in UC SHIP premiums, according to Richie Artoul, UCSB representative to UC SHIP Advisory Committee and third-year pharmacology major.
“Even if they make changes to UC SHIP to prevent premium increases from going up, student health facilities will not have the budget they need to clear, and it’ll still end up passing on the cost to students,” he said. “[President Yudof] obviously wants this problem to be solved, I mean, I think everyone does, but it’s really just a matter of where the money’s going to come from.”
In his response to the members of Congress, President Yudof said, despite the legal loophole, the university plans to lift the caps in order to hold “with both the spirit and the letter of the [Affordable Care Act].” UC spokesperson Brooke Converse said Yudof and university administration are eager to address the issue.
“We actually lobbied with other universities to be included, to have self-funded programs like ours be included,” Converse said. “We thought it was in students’ best interests. For whatever reason, and we’re not exactly sure what that is, some of the plans were not included.”
According to Ashley Schapitl, a spokesperson for Congresswoman Lois Capps, although it’s too early to say what action the representatives might take to address the issue, it is possible that the exception for self-funded programs might be addressed in further legislation.
“It’s vitally important … a lot of young people don’t think they need the same kind of health care plan that you might need when you’re in your thirties or forties or fifties, but that, you know, you never know what might happen,” Schapitl said. “It’s important that every young person has health care … that’s going to be there when they need it.”
President Yudof reassured the representatives that the university will not only try to pass a measure through quickly, but that the plan would be created together with student representatives.
“This decision … will be discussed by the SHIP Advisory Committee, which includes student representatives from all ten of our campuses. Our goal is to have that decision made in time for the fiscal year 2013- 14 plan year,” Yudof stated in the letter.
A version of this article appeared on page 3 of March 1st, 2013′s print edition of the Nexus.