Oct 052004
 
Authors: Sara Bahnson, Adrienne Hoenig

Renee Hill pays her own way through college.

This year, she is spending hundreds of dollars more on

insurance.

Student health insurance offered through Hartshorn Health

Service has increased 38 percent since last year.

Hill, a senior biology major, budgeted for this year’s expenses

based on last year’s $970 health insurance price tag.

She was surprised instead to find that insurance would cost

$1,340 for the year.

“Insurance was taken right out of my student loans,” Hill said.

“I had to have my mom send me a check to cover it, and then I had

to refund her.”

The insurance coverage offered by Hartshorn is an optional plan

for most CSU students. However, international students are required

to purchase CSU’s insurance or something equivalent.

Both domestic and international students are feeling overwhelmed

by the insurance cost increase.

Nischal Piratla, an international graduate student studying

electrical engineering, said the increase has been hard on his

budget too.

“Any increase like this will really throw off our financial

planning,” Piratla said.

Insurance is up 38 percent from last year, but over the last

five years it has only increased an average of 11 percent each

year, said Stephen Blom, director of Hartshorn Health Service. This

is 4 percent less than the national average increase of 15 percent

per year.

A number of reasons caused the increase, but it is specifically

attributed to several costly claims filed by CSU students in the

2003 to 2004 school year.

“We experienced some very high claims such as a student with

cancer and a pregnancy of premature twins,” Blom said. “People on

the plan got a lot of money for medical costs.”

International students are given the option of choosing another

equivalent insurance plan. However, a plan comparable to CSU’s is

hard to find. CSU requires the insurance be sold in semester- or

yearlong increments without the ability to cancel it.

“Many (international students) tried to find equivalent

insurance, but we can never find it,” Piratla said.

CSU’s insurance plan carrier, Guarantee Trust Life, proposed a

55 percent increase for this year because the company’s losses

exceeded its profits, Blom said. However, Hartshorn ended the

35-year contract with Guarantee Trust Life in favor of the lesser

38 percent increase offered by TIG Premier Insurance Company, CSU’s

new insurance carrier.

Colorado automobile insurance laws also contributed to the

increase. Because automobile insurance companies are no longer

required to pay the medical expenses caused by an accident, health

insurance companies must now pay those claims.

“This policy change resulted in 3 to 4 percent of the increase,”

Blom said.

Colorado law requires that all students have coverage for

pregnancy and delivery, mental and nervous conditions, alcohol and

substance abuse, and screening for mammograms and prostate cancer,

said Raydean Canfield, an insurance administrator at CSU.

Some international students feel that a plan with such

widespread coverage is not necessary.

“Our plan is not to come (to the United States) and have

babies,” Piratla said.

However, Blom said that it is important to be insured for such

“catastrophic claims.”

Hartshorn Health Service has created a plan to assist

international students with health insurance’s financial burden.

The installment plan in place allows students to pay their

insurance cost in three installments, similar to the tuition

installment plan.

“It was a request by the Office of International Programs and it

was a way for us to reach out to international students,” Blom

said.

Blom said the University of Colorado-Boulder and Metropolitan

State College of Denver experienced similar student insurance

increases.

“Insurance costs are still going up,” Blom said. “My best guess

is that in the future we will not see increases like this and

hopefully they will be in the single digits.”

 

Annual Student Health Insurance Costs

2000-01 $860

2001-02 $895

2002-03 $865

2003-04 $970

2004-05 $1,340

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