By: Jenna Miller and Natallie Rocha
“I know that picking a private university came with risks, but there is no mitigation for students who are poor, unstable, or even uninsured.”
A former student took to twitter to express her anger after the campus community was notified that student health insurance through Point Loma Nazarene University would no longer be offered in the 2017-18 academic year. The email was sent out on Jun. 13 explaining the recent changes to student health insurance at PLNU.
“This decision was difficult and not without lengthy discussion of the impact to students and importance of accessible and affordable health care while completing degree requirement,” Dr. Kim Bogan, Associate Dean of Student Success and Wellness said in the email.
PLNU attributed this decision to the political uncertainty regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the decision by the previous health care provider, AIG, to stop offering Student Health Plans (SHP’s). Since the ACA took effect in 2014, people can sign up online for government health insurance, also known as ObamaCare. In recent months, the Trump administration has repeatedly attempted to repeal and replace the ACA.
Nationally, students are required to purchase health insurance, unless they qualify for an exemption, or they will incur a tax penalty.
“Student health plans count as health insurance coverage (e.g. minimum essential coverage) under the Affordable Care Act,” according to the Covered California website. “Therefore, for the months consumers are enrolled in student health coverage, they will not have to pay a penalty.”
Ann Harris, the Southwest Regional Sales Director of AIG, said the insurance company would no longer be providing health insurance plans to universities as of July 31, 2017.
“While there are many factors affecting local and national company decisions to phase out student health insurance plans, some companies have cited the combination of the loss ratio requirement and the uncertainty of very large claims with no maximum benefit as one of many reasons that insurers have exited the student health market,” Dr. Bogan said in a follow-up email.
One of the benefits of having SHP’s offered through a university is that it allows students to apply their student loans toward the cost of insurance, said Jenny Haubenreiser, former president of the American College Health Association, to ABC News. In accordance with the ACA’s federal requirements, PLNU requires all undergraduate students on the main campus to show proof of health insurance at the beginning of each school year in order to enroll.
The staff from the PLNU Student Financial Services and the Wellness Center are available to students seeking guidance with health insurance. They can help students pick an insurance plan that will work for them financially or find another option that fits their needs. The Wellness Center webpage also offers links to organizations that give alternatives to health care that comply with the ACA.
“I was hesitant to sign up for the ACA when it was introduced because my politics were different. But it was the only way I could afford school,” said the former PLNU student.