Health Care Letter to Chancellor Drake

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April 29th, 2013

Chancellor Michael Drake

University of California, Irvine

Dear Chancellor  Drake,

We, as undergraduate and graduate students at UC Irvine, are writing to ask for your continued support for improvements in the quality, affordability, and accessibility of UC student health insurance. We ask that you support Irvine students by voting in favor of the elimination of all coverage caps and in support of better dependent care options for UC students at the UC Council of Chancellors’ Meeting on May 1st, 2013.

First, we ask for your vote for the removal of all benefit caps prohibited under the ACA in the UC SHIP 2013-14 plan year. These include the lifetime coverage cap, annual pharmacy cap, the air ambulance cap, the neo-natal care cap, and several others. While the lifetime coverage and annual pharmacy caps have the most dramatic effects on student well-being, the other coverage caps also impact quality of care: over 130 UC students were impacted by these additional caps in the 2011-2012 plan year alone.[1] Eliminating such caps would bring UC SHIP into line with federal standards for Qualified Employee Plans under the ACA, and would ensure compliance with California State Assembly Member Dr. Richard Pan’s Assembly Bill 314, which would require California institutions of higher learning to all coverage caps for students and their dependents in compliance with the ACA. AB 314 enjoys broad bipartisan support and will likely become law during this legislative term. After the UC Office of the President priced the removal of these additional benefit caps at only a 1% increase in premium costs, the UC SHIP Advisory Board recently voted to recommend this change. Please stand with Irvine students and vote to align UC health insurance with the high standards for which UC is known worldwide.

Second, we ask for your support in advocating for more affordable health care coverage for the dependents of UC students. The UC SHIP premiums for dependents are much more expensive than those for students, and deductibles and copays can be up to twice as high. These costs have the potential to bankrupt students with families, even if their dependents do not experience a catastrophic health problem. But current regulations bar UC students, their children, and other dependents from accessing quality, affordable insurance from the Benefit Exchanges available under the ACA starting January 1st, 2014. UC SHIP premiums for a dependent cost as much as $2,200 more per year than Exchange Plan premiums will cost for students who meet income requirements to qualify for premium subsidies, a cost difference of more than 400%. Maximum out-of-pocket expenses are as much as $2,000 more expensive for dependents covered by UC SHIP than for similar coverage from the Benefit Exchange Plans. We ask that you fight for lower premiums, deductibles, and copays for dependents enrolled in UC health insurance. Students should be able to afford health coverage for their spouses and children at costs comparable to the Benefit Exchanges.

Third, we ask you to demand that UCOP take responsibility for its missteps with regard to UC SHIP, and to advocate for an improved model of governance of UC health insurance. Given the clear financial mismanagement of UC SHIP by the UC Office of the President since its inception, we believe that UCOP cannot be trusted to administer the program in its current form. Students and campus administrators agree that the cost of such mismanagement should not be passed on to students or campuses. Please join us in calling for UCOP to pay for the losses of UC SHIP. In addition, we hope you will support us in demanding a new administrative model of UC SHIP governance, in which more decision-making occurs at the campus level to meet campus-specific needs while an empowered statewide advisory board consisting of student and administrative representatives from all campuses can make decisions about the program without UCOP involvement.

We understand that some UC campuses are considering withdrawing from the statewide UC SHIP program. Whether or not the Irvine campus remains a part of UC SHIP, we ask you to support a health insurance plan that complies with all ACA benefit standards and provides affordable coverage for Irvine students and their dependents.

We appreciate your interest in the needs of UC Irvine students. Please maintain that commitment and vote for the welfare of Irvine students at the upcoming Chancellors’ Meeting.

[1] “Benefit Maximums Report 2013”, UC Office of the President.