Oct 062009
Authors: Meagan TempletonLynch

Mandates on CSU’s required graduate student health insurance program were officially loosened Tuesday, allowing incoming students with existing plans to keep them or to choose better-fitting coverage, university officials confirmed.

The program, which, under the former guidelines, was widely unpopular among graduate students, was governed strictly by tight rules that only allowed for a narrow range of coverage options, student leaders said.

“Before coming to CSU, I had a health plan that worked great for me,” said Ava Solman, a first-year occupational therapy graduate student, who said she felt forced into buying CSU’s insurance through Summit America Insurance Services, which is the sole provider through the university program.

The policy was implemented after a change in state policy that allowed CSU to require graduate students to have a health care plan.

The mandate is currently in the grandfathering stage and requires all new graduate students to have a policy that is comparable to CSU’s student insurance plan – it will be fully implemented in the fall of 2011.

One reason the university drafted the policy was because it would allow CSU to provide financial aid for student health care plans, said Stephen Blom, executive director of the CSU Health Network, adding that an umbrella policy allows for a solid money pool for student insurance.

Students who do not want CSU’s plan must fill out a waiver and show that their insurance plan fulfills the dozens of requirements mandated by the state for group health care policies.

“The tricky word (in the waiver) is ‘comparable,'” Blom said. “We have taken a stand. We want students to have good coverage, not just insurance. It’s been tough.”

But university officials said the new guidelines would be easier to follow.

“We all agreed that the changes we made were appropriate,” Blom said. “We are confident we have a solution so that future implementation will go smoothly.”

The new guidelines will hopefully be posted on the graduate student Web site by the end of the month, Blom said, and will be in full effect next semester.

Some of the criteria dictating waiver approval include:

Whether an applicant has a plan they intend to keep after school,

Has a pre-existing condition that would make finding insurance after leaving CSU difficult, or

Has an overall policy that meets most program mandates, even if it does not meet some, such as coverage for mental and nervous disorders, alcohol and substance abuse or pregnancy.

Stipends are available to graduate assistants each semester to help cover the cost of the program.

This year the stipend provides $500 a semester, up from $350 last year. Next year it will go up to $650 a semester.

Of the 3,671 graduate students at the university, there are 1,460 graduate students assistants that qualify for the stipends.

Paul Mayo, executive vice president of SAIS, plans to hold an informational forum to educate the university community about the insurance process. Mayo will also review the plan to see what further changes need to be made to suit the students best.

Staff writer Meagan Templeton-Lynch can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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