The UCSB Student Health Advisory Committee shared details of Gaucho Health Insurance — UCSB’s new campus-operated health insurance plan for the 2013-2014 school year — yesterday at the Harbor Room in the UCen.
The meeting comes in the wake of Chancellor Henry Yang’s recent announcement that UCSB would leave the UC Student Health Insurance Plan early May. Yang joined chancellors from UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine and UC Riverside to officially withdraw from participation in UC SHIP earlier this month, excluding only UC SHIP dental and vision programs from the new campus-run plans. The decision was made in accordance with the UC SHIP Advisory Board’s recommendation to abandon health insurance caps on both pharmaceutical and lifetime maximums, which restrict student access to prescription drugs to $10,000 and total benefits at the university to $400,000, respectively. The caps were first drawn into question earlier this year, when a number of students protested them in February.
Under the new GHI plan, students will retain all the same benefits of UC SHIP but will have no lifetime medical maximums, no pharmaceutical maximums, no physical therapy maximums and no limits for services like chiropractic and acupuncture.
According to UCSB Student Health Patient Advocate Richie Artoul, a UCSB undergraduate representative to UC SHIP and third-year pharmacology major, the university will return to its model prior to UC SHIP and adopt a third-party private insurer for medical and mental health coverage.
With the new carrier Aetna Student Health, premiums will be paid directly to Aetna, whereas before the UC Office of the President acted as the insurer and collected most of the premiums and medical bills, Artoul said.
“We’re no longer liable for any of the losses that are incurred from the plan anymore,” Artoul said. “If we end up costing more money than we pay into the plan, that’s fine — that’s Aetna’s responsibility, not ours. So we won’t be increasing the deficit in there anymore.”
In addition to avoiding incurring losses from the projected $57 million UC SHIP deficit, GHI will establish a Gaucho Health Insurance Advisory Committee that will feature five student representatives who will look at the health insurance plan, make recommendations and then vote on decisions regarding determined benefits, costs and coverage.
“Instead of having this vague, ethereal advisory committee that has representatives from all the different campuses, we can focus on campus-specific issues and set the plan to work with our campus,” Artoul said. “I think it will be good for the student body because they’ll be able to get involved and kind of take charge a little bit of their own healthcare.”
According to Student Health Public Relations Manager Aleisa Pfau, the university’s health insurance plan under UC SHIP — which covered 10 other campuses beside UCSB — aimed to lower rates and increase benefits by operating as a large health institution. These efforts were futile for a number of reasons, according to Pfau, who agreed with Artoul that there has been a lack of student representation within these affairs.
“We did not have any say. It was just a product of the system; it was controlled by one central place,” Pfau said. “Now we can control and regulate the students’ benefits based on what they want to see.”
The new health insurance plan will allow for a more accessible, student-directed health insurance plan that allows students to pay their premiums at no cost to the university, regardless of how a student’s plan is utilized, Artoul said.
“When there are 10 other campuses under UC SHIP, one voice tends to get lost,” Artoul said. “But now, if anyone has a problem with the plan, they can come yell at me, personally.”