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Student Health Insurance: eHealth Reviews Plans Available to University Students -- Offers Five Tips

eHealth, Inc. Research Shows College Students Are Unaware of Some Key Health Insurance Fundamentals

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA--(Marketwire - October 13, 2009) - University students are returning to Fall classes at a time when many are less likely to find jobs that offer health insurance benefits after graduation, and others are at a relatively high-risk for acquiring the H1N1 virus. At the same time, a series of independent reports from bloggers and journalists have been written to address the quality of student health insurance plans.
 
Nation-wide, journalists including Jackie Johnson at Wisconsin Public Radio, Francesca Lunzer Kritz at the Los Angeles Times, Makenzie Marineau at the Daily Barometer, Douglas Jennings at the Utah Chronicle, and Roman Zhuk at DailyCal.org have stressed the need for students and/or their parents to carefully consider their options for health coverage.
 
To address some of the questions raised, eHealthInsurance (http://www.ehealthinsurance.com) conducted an independent review of health plans offered by 10 of the largest public universities in the country and found that monthly premiums and deductibles were fairly consistent among most plans, while annual out-of-pocket maximums and lifetime coverage limits varied(1).
 
Further complicating the matter, a 2009 eHealthInsurance survey(2) showed the majority of college students could not confidently define premiums, deductibles, annual out-of-pocket maximums and lifetime coverage limits; the items that constitute the basic components of a health insurance product.
 
This confusion may be partially responsible for the increasing number of college students who are going without health insurance. A 2009 report by the Lookout Mountain Group(3) (LMG) found that over 4 million college students are uninsured; approximately 9 percent of the total uninsured population in the United States. According to the LMG report, 57 percent of all colleges sponsored student health plans, but, the plans varied greatly from school to school.
 
To help students (and their parents) who may be grappling with decisions about purchasing college plans or selecting other forms of medical coverage, eHealthInsurance has provided its health insurance buyer's guide for students located at www.ehealthinsurance.com/101guide.
 
eHealth has also provided five tips for first-time student buyers, along with a summary of findings from eHealthInsurance's review of student health insurance plans offered by 10 leading Universities.
 
Tips for reviewing University plans:
1. Before you buy, make sure you know what all of your health coverage options are:
-- Your parents' plan: If your parents obtain their health insurance through a group/employer sponsored plan, then in most cases, college students who were covered by their parents' plan in high school are eligible to remain on that insurance policy. Many plans require students to be on full-time class schedule in order to stay on their parents' plan and many policies require students to drop off the plan once they turn 25.
-- Plans offered through your University: The plans eHealth reviewed provided students with access to preventive care and typically provided at least $50,000 for care received on or off campus. In most cases students received more favorable pricing terms for care delivered by a provider in the insurer's network
-- Individual health insurance policies: Parents and students looking to save money on monthly premiums may also want to consider purchasing individual health insurance policies.
-- Free or low cost-government programs: Many Americans are not aware of free or low-cost health care programs that are available for people who cannot afford or qualify for private insurance, or who don't have access to employer-provided coverage. Any student searching for these programs can contact eHealthInsurance.com's Customer Care Center or contact the Foundation for Health Coverage Education directly at www.CoverageForAll.org.
 
2. Know where to go for care: Many students who are out on their own for the first time may never think about how or where to go for care until an emergency pops up.
-- On-campus clinics: Many colleges and Universities have student clinics on campus that provide varying degrees of basic care; some may offer advanced care as well. For students living on or near campus, these clinics may be your best source for low-cost, high-quality preventive care. You may also want to find out if they can provide emergency care.
-- Physicians and Care Centers in your network: Most health plans will provide you with reduced rates from care providers that are in your health plan's network. When you get care outside of your network, the cost typically goes up. So, before you choose a health insurance product, it's a good idea to find out if the places you're most likely to go for care are included in the plan's network.
-- Emergency Rooms: Emergency rooms are an excellent resource when you have a medical emergency. But, when you don't have a medical emergency, it's a good idea to try to find care somewhere else first. Any form of care provided in an emergency room is typically very expensive and, with or without insurance, the costs for delivering that care can often be extremely high.
 
3. Understand how pre-existing medical conditions can impact your ability to obtain medical coverage on different plan types:
-- Your parents' plan: Pre-existing medical conditions are typically not an issue as long as you stay on your parents' plan.
-- University plans: If a student has not had a gap in creditable coverage, the majority of student plans offered through a College or University will provide some level of coverage for most pre-existing medical conditions.
-- Individual health Insurance plans: Insurance companies can choose not to offer a student an individual health insurance product for reasons including a pre-existing condition.
 
4. Understand the value of a maximum coverage amount or lifetime coverage limit: When buying health insurance, one of the things you're paying for is a maximum amount of coverage, which is typically referred to in a health insurance policy as a "maximum coverage amount."
-- Your parents' plan: If your parents get their insurance from their employer, they will be on what is called a group health insurance policy. These policies typically either do not have coverage maximums or have maximums that exceed $1 million of coverage.
-- University plans: Many of the student policies we reviewed have coverage maximums for each medical incident. So, for example, if a student has multiple unrelated accidents, each new accident will entitle them to the same dollar amount of coverage. However, if a student contracts a costly disease or long-term illness, the policy would only provide the single maximum coverage amount for all medical costs related to that illness.
-- Individual health insurance policies: Like group policies, some individual health insurance policies have coverage maximums and some do not. For those that do, the average amount of coverage available was $3.9 million and the median plan lifetime limit was $2 million, according to eHealthInsurance's 2008 Cost & Benefits report(4).
 
5. Research your ability to continue coverage after graduation under the plan you choose:
-- Your parents' plan: If your parents get their insurance from their employer, then in most cases, you can remain on your parents' plan after graduation, if you take advantage of COBRA laws, which give you an additional 18 months of access to that plan. The downside is that the cost of COBRA can be extremely cost-prohibitive.
-- University plans: The majority of the University plans eHealth reviewed allowed students to continue coverage after graduation for a short period of time -- from three months or up to one year.
-- Individual health insurance policies: One of the key benefits of individually purchased health insurance policies is that they're yours to keep.
 
Summary of eHealthInsurance findings from 10 University plans:
1. Premiums: Of the plans reviewed, monthly premiums ranged from about $90 to about $140, with some exceptions.
2. Deductibles: Most plans had deductibles, which ranged from $75 to $300 for in-network medical services, with some exceptions. In some cases deductibles were waived if care was received at campus medical centers.
3. Pre-existing conditions: The majority of plans covered pre-existing conditions, provided the student had not had a gap in creditable coverage. Again, there were some exceptions.
4. Out of pocket maximums: Most plans had out of pocket maximums, which ranged from $1,500 to $10,000 for in-network medical services, with some exceptions.
5. Lifetime coverage limits: Most plans had lifetime coverage limits, which ranged from $50,000 to $300,000 for in-network medical services, with some exceptions.
6. Coverage after graduation: All of the plans reviewed set a time limit or cap on the amount of time benefits could be kept after graduation. Of the plans we reviewed, the longest period of time allowed to extend benefits, barring medical reasons, was one year. In most cases coverage must be terminated within 3 months of graduation, again, barring medical reasons.
 
 
Average Individually Purchased Health Insurance Policy from eHealth’s 2008 Cost & Benefits Report
Costs / Max Coverage
Pre-existing conditions covered for new applicants
General Ability to continue coverage after graduation
Adults Aged: 18-24
  • Average Premium Male: $94 per month
  • Average Premium Female:$115
  • Average Maximum Coverage: $3.9 Million
  • Average Deductible: $1,932
  • Annual out-of-pocket maximum: *averages not available but most policies range from $0 to $10,000.  higher maximums may be offered in some plans  
In most cases not without approval via medical underwriting.
Yes
Average Group Health Insurance Policy from The Kaiser Family Foundation’s Employer Health Benefits 2009 Annual Survey
Costs / Max Coverage
Pre-existing conditions covered for new applicants
Ability to continue coverage after graduation for non-medical reasons
  • Students on group policies would typically be dependants in a family plan where the primary policy holder is one of their parents.
  • On average, the primary policy holder on a group policy contributes 27% of the total premium cost out of their own pocket and their employer covers the remaining 73%
    • Average Annual Family Premium: $13,375 ($1,114 per month - $300 out of pocket)
    • Average deductible: $634 for PPOs, $699 for HMOs, $1,061 for POS plans, and $1,838 for HDHP/SOs
    • Annual out-of-pocket maximum: Ranges $1,500 or less to $3,000 or more
    • Maximum coverage: 41% of plans have no lifetime maximum, 16%range from $1 and $2 million, and 43% are $2 million or more.
 
Yes
No. Some plans have a firm age cap of 25 years-old.
School and Student Plan
Required for Admission?
Offer Referral For Student Plan?
Costs / Max Coverage:
For In-Network Services not Provided On Campus
Pre-existing conditions covered for new applicants
Ability to continue coverage after graduation for non-medical reasons
Ohio State University, Columbus
UnitedHealthCare: Policy number 06-BR-OH (Rev 07-09) 34-1103-01
Yes
Yes
  • Premium: $367 per quarter ($92 per month5)
  • Maximum coverage: $50,000
  • Deductible: $75
  • Annual out-of-pocket maximum: $5,000
 
Yes.
* With exceptions related to gaps in creditable coverage and duration of coverage.
 
No
 
 
Arizona State University
Aetna Policy Number 697443
No
Yes
 
  • Annual premium: $1,523  ($126 per month5)
  • Deductible: $250
  • Maximum coverage: $300,000
  • Annual out-of-pocket maximum: $1,500
Yes.
* With exceptions related to gaps in creditable coverage and duration of coverage.
 
Yes, for up to 3 months
University of Florida 
plan 2: Aetna Student Health Policy No 474890
No
Yes
 
  • Annual premium <25: $ 1,391 ($116 per month5)
  • Annual premium >=25 : $ $1,731 ($145 per month5)
  • Maximum coverage: $200,000
  • Deductible: $200
  • Annual out-of-pocket maximum: $10,000
Yes
* With exceptions related to gaps in creditable coverage, duration of coverage and the location where service is delivered.
 
 
No
 
University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minneapolis
University-sponsored Student Health Benefit Plan
Yes
Yes
  • Premium: $1,814 per year ($152 per month5)
  • Annual out-of-pocket maximum: $2000
  • Maximum coverage: $3,000,000
 
Yes
*with limited exceptions
Yes, for up to one year with exceptions
University of Texas at Austin
UnitedHealthCare 06-BR-TX-PPO (Rev 07-08) 
No
Yes
  • Annual Premium: $1,100 ($92 per month5)
  • Deductible: $300
  • Maximum coverage: $100,000
  • Annual out-of-pocket maximum: $10,000
Yes
* With exceptions related to gaps in creditable coverage and duration of coverage.
 
Yes, for up to six months
University of Central Florida 
Aetna Student Health Plan:
 
Yes
Yes
  • Annual Premium: $1,384 ($116 per month5)
  • Maximum coverage: $250,000
  • Deductible: $250
  • Annual out-of-pocket maximum: $2,000
Yes
* With exceptions related to gaps in creditable coverage and duration of coverage.
 
No
 
 
Aetna Life Insurance Company (ALIC)
Policy Number 711130
 
No
Yes
  • Annual premium: $1,390 per year ($116 per month5)
  • Maximum coverage: $50,000 per accident or illness
  • Deductible: $150
  • Annual out-of-pocket maximum: $1,650
 
Yes
* With exceptions related to gaps in creditable coverage and duration of coverage.
 
Yes, for up to 9 months
Delos Insurance Company
50K Plan: Policy # DSP0003209 
 
No
Yes
  • Annual premium: $1,213 ($102 per month5)
  • Deductible: $250
  • Maximum coverage: $50,000 per condition
  • Annual out-of-pocket maximum: $1,000
 
Yes, with some limitations and exceptions.
Yes, for one year
University of South Florida 
Blue Cross/Blue Shield: BCBSF Group # 65145
Call
Yes
  • Annual premium: $1,539 ($129 per month5)
  • Deductible: $300
  • Maximum coverage per year: $200,000
  • Annual out-of-pocket maximum: Varies from service to service, but typically the deductible, plus 80% of the allowed benefit.
 
Yes
* With exceptions related to gaps in creditable coverage and duration of coverage.
No
Pennsylvania State University 
06-BR-PA (Rev 07-08)
No
Yes
  • Annual premium: $1,107 ($93 per month5)
  • Deductible: $50
  • Maximum coverage: $50,000 per injury or sickness
  • Annual out-of-pocket maximum: $150
 
Yes, with some limitations and exceptions.
No
 
eHealth has also provided links to the student health insurance pages of 20 of the largest Public and Private University Campuses in the United States.
1. Nova Southeastern University
2. Columbia University
3. Northeastern University
4. DePaul University
5. Long Island University
6. University of Pennsylvania
7. George Washington University
8. Harvard University
9. Cornell University
10. Syracuse University
11. University of Washington
12. University of Wisconsin-Madison
13. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
14. University of Michigan
15. Florid a International University
16. New York University
17. Brigham Young University
18. University of Southern California
19. Boston University
20. Liberty University
 
(1) The review conducted by eHealth, Inc. was done by a random sampling of Universities. The review is not meant to indicate or predict any trends or practices. This information is presented for the sole purpose of illustrating the diversity of health insurance products available and should, in no way, be perceived as a comment on the value or quality of insurance products recommended or offered by the Universities listed.
(2) eHealth, Inc. Consumer Survey of College Students, May 14, 2009 (http://www.ehealthinsurance.com/content/expertcenterNew/CollegeStudentsSurvey_ToplineAndResults.pdf)
(3) Analysis and Policy Recommendations for Providing Health Insurance and Health Care Services for the College Student Population, p. 31, Lookout Mountain Group, June 2, 2009.
(4) eHealth, Inc. Cost And Benefits Of Individual And Family Health Insurance Plans, November 2008 uses 2007 plan data: http://news.ehealthinsurance.com/pr/ehi/document/eHealthCBreport2008FINAL.pdf
(5) All dollar amounts listed for premiums are rounded up to the nearest full dollar.
 
 
About eHealth
eHealth, Inc. (NASDAQ: EHTH) is the parent company of eHealthInsurance, the nation's leading online source of health insurance for individuals, families and small businesses. Through the company's website, http://www.eHealthInsurance.com, consumers can get quotes from leading health insurance carriers, compare plans side by side, and apply for and purchase health insurance. eHealthInsurance offers thousands of health plans underwritten by more than 180 of the nation's leading health insurance companies. eHealthInsurance is licensed to sell health insurance in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, making it a functioning national health insurance exchange. Through its eCommerce On-Demand solution (eOD), www.ehealth.com/eOD, eHealth is also a leading provider of on-demand e-commerce software services. eHealth's eOD platform provides a suite of hosted solutions that enable health plan providers and resellers to market and distribute products online. eHealth's eCommerce On-Demand solution is currently available to health plan providers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. eHealthInsurance and eHealth are registered trademarks of eHealthInsurance Services, Inc.