Monday, January 21st, 2019

Health insurance required for all USM students

Posted on September 15, 2014 in News
By Sam Hill

As of last Friday, there are 1,570 students at USM who have a $942 charge on their account for a new health insurance plan, but have not finished the plan’s enrollment process and are not receiving any benefits.

The insurance plan was made mandatory by the University of Maine System this past summer. Students without health insurance will have to confirm their insurance enrollment to get access to their ID card and benefits, while students already enrolled in a health care plan elsewhere can opt-out by signing a waiver before Oct. 1.

So far, 3,924 students have opted-out of the plan, 517 have enrolled and 1,570 have not done either.

“We’ve been putting information out there and reminding people for two weeks now and have a few weeks left, but some students have not done one or the other,” said Lisa Belanger, the director of health services.

Belanger said that Health Services has been sending out information about the opt-out deadline through MaineStreet messaging, physical and digital postcards, emails and social media, but that it’s sometimes difficult to get information to students at the beginning of a semester.

“I think there’s a lot of information that comes to students at the beginning of the year and that, after a while, they pick and choose what they’re actually reading,” said Belanger. “Also, returning students might think they already know everything about our health insurance system and ignore it, even though it has been changed.”

Belanger also noted that some students could find health insurance intimidating if they’ve never had to deal with it before, but said that enrollment and opting-out are both simple to complete. Students who opt-out are immediately refunded the charge on their account if it was paid out-of-pocket or with financial aid.

“Some might just be putting it off because they’re expecting a complicated process, but it’s really simple,” said Belanger. “It’s just a matter of logging on and filling out some basic info. It’s very brief.”

Students have already been signed-up and billed if they meet a certain criteria: taking nine credits or more as an undergraduate and six credits or more as a graduate student. Students taking clinical courses in the school of nursing or the athletic training program, and students in the occupational therapy program have to enroll as well as a program requirement.

Enrollment and communication issues aside, Belanger said that she thought the new health insurance plan was a good move for students.

“It provides a good product for a reasonable price. There aren’t many plans that are this affordable,” she said, pointing out that it covers an entire year for less than $80 a month and that it complies with Affordable Care Act requirements.

Belanger said that the plan is a bit of a hybrid plan, but one the University of Maine System decided would benefit the most students. It doesn’t include coverage of dental or eye care and isn’t designed for students with chronic health conditions, but is great for preventive care and helping to pay for prescription drugs.

Details on the plan and the waiver process are available online.

Belanger said, “We just want all students to know that they can call us if they have any questions.”

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