NIU health insurance cost rises

By Keith Hernandez

As the cost of student health insurance is set to rise next year, so are the benefits.

The Board of Trustees approved a premium cost increase of $428 for the 2015 fiscal year due to Affordable Care Act mandates for broader coverage and more benefits March 27. That is a $1,488 premium compared to this year’s $1,060 and last year’s $976 premium.

Health Services Director Christine Grady said while the increase is significant, steps were taken to assure students are going to get the biggest bang for their buck.

“Health Services and the university get nothing out of this,” Grady said. “It’s a good deal for students if they don’t have other insurance or they’re not on their parents’ insurance.”

Affordable Care Act mandates will bring in a host of benefits for next year, including preventative medicine and immunizations, birth control, the elimination of the preexisting condition clause, a no-limit maximum benefit (compared to this year’s $500,000 limit), pediatric dental and vision and a $25,000 accidental death benefit.

The Annual Student Health Insurance Fee Committee, of which Grady is a voting member, negotiated a quote from a pool of carriers through a designated broker.

The committee is composed of Health Services employees and representatives from Student Association and the Student Health Advisory Council.

The committee’s broker, Academic HealthPlans, chose to remain with Blue Cross Blue Shield and was able to bring the increase in cost down from as high as $275 per semester to $214. The committee then approved next year’s premium cost of $1,488 and sent its proposal to the Board of Trustees, which approved the change at its March 27 meeting.

“I’m very pleased that we didn’t go any higher than the premium they gave us, and they were willing to work with us,” Grady said.

Daihee Cho, former SA director of Student Life and voting member of the Annual Student Health Insurance committee when it was in session, said he agrees with the committee and board’s decision.

“To me, it feels like it was reasonable,” Cho said. “I felt that they were taking in how students are sensitive to all the prices, for tuition and other fees. I believe they did a great job.”

Senior history major Mike Kaczmarek said there will be benefits to the health insurance changes despite the cost.

“To be honest for me it’s just going to be an increase in cost, but overall it’s valuable to have this,” Kaczmarek said. “For someone who is young and healthy, it’s not going to help that much, but for people who need those things, it is.”

As a part of the Affordable Care Act mandates, students can stay under their parents’ health insurance until they are 26 years old. Because of this, students choose to remain covered while in school and are unaffected by the cost increase on campus.

Zach Baker, junior mechanical engineering major, said he chose to remain under his parent’s insurance because of the lower cost.

“I’m on my parents’ plan because it covers more things. I’ve already been a part of it before I came here and will still be on it after I leave,” Baker said. “Switching and possibly paying an extra premium didn’t make much sense.”