Amidst the continuation of various capital projects across campus and administrative efforts to examine students’ experiences through visioning forums, this semester also brings revisions to the college’s health insurance plan. Among the changes are the improved affordability of out-of-pocket expenditures and hormone therapy for transgender students.
For the approximately 25% of students who receive health insurance through the college, cutting costs was a priority for Alice Holland, Director of Health and Wellness.
“During my first year I heard a range of concerns from students about some of the limitations of our health insurance, including the challenges of co-pays for our low-income students,” said Holland. “Based on these concerns, I conducted a full review of our student health insurance plan and was able to negotiate a plan that has improved benefits for students.”
Among those benefits is 90/10 preferred provider co-insurance and prescription co-payment. This means when a student visits a doctor or hospital within a designated network of healthcare providers, the insurance provider covers 90 percent of the cost while the student pays 10 percent. In the past, the ratio of coverage between the college’s health insurance and student was 80/20. In addition to this new coverage ratio, the limit of student expenditure has been more than halved from $6,350 to $3,000. In the case of a student going over the new expenditure limit, the insurance company generally covers the remainder.
To cover the cost of these new changes, Holland explained that the college compared costs across different insurance vendors to choose a plan that provides the “most reasonable benefit” for students. The college also increased the annual premium by $147 to an annual total of $1,387.
Compared to the college’s peer institutions, the various student health plans are quite similar. At Williams College and Amherst College, insurance covers 100 percent of the cost with zero deductible, or the amount of money an individual pays before insurance coverage. However, students at those colleges pay a higher up-front annual premium of $1,653 and $1,882 respectively. At Haverford, students pay a $100 deductible and insurance covers 90% of the cost within a preferred provider network, while insurance covers 80% of the cost at a zero deductible for Bryn Mawr College students.
Woodjerry Entienne ‘19, a student on Swarthmore’s health insurance plan, shared that he views the changes as a positive step for the college in further financially assisting students. When Entienne needed vaccinations for his trip to China last year, some weren’t covered leaving him to pay for those vaccinations out of pocket.
“The hepatitis A vaccine was covered by insurance, though the typhoid vaccine was not covered, and that definitely confounded me. The Japanese encephalitis vaccine was $325 for each of the two series needed,” he said.
Though the encephalitis vaccine was optional, Entienne believed the typhoid vaccine was necessary and should have been covered by the insurance.
“I think the reduced co-payment is a strong sign of progressiveness when it comes to financially assisting students in their health needs. These small tweaks made in the college’s health insurance plan bode well for the future health outcomes of the students here,” Entienne later remarked.
The final major change to the college’s health insurance plan is that hormone therapy is now covered for transgender students.
Alice Holland later stressed that the staff at the Health and Wellness center are able to provide guidance related to health payments. “The goal is that students receive the necessary medical attention without concern about cost,” she concluded.