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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA may expand insurance

    A week after breaking his ankle and receiving the initial treatment, first-year law student Billy Etter waits in the Campus Health courtyard after getting a referral from the sports medicine office. A recent survey by Campus Health and the GPSC shows that graduate students are unhappy that they do not receive prescription, dental or optical benefits.
    A week after breaking his ankle and receiving the initial treatment, first-year law student Billy Etter waits in the Campus Health courtyard after getting a referral from the sports medicine office. A recent survey by Campus Health and the GPSC shows that graduate students are unhappy that they do not receive prescription, dental or optical benefits.

    Graduate students want more benefits in their campus health insurance plans, which they could receive next year after Arizona’s public universities look into more comprehensive health insurance.

    Sixty-six percent of graduate student respondents to a Graduate and Professional Student Council and Campus Health Service survey this semester said they were “”concerned about the lack of prescription drug coverage,”” 59 percent were “”concerned about the lack of vision coverage”” and 80 percent were “”concerned about the lack of dental coverage.””

    The UA does not provide dental or vision benefits with its insurance plan, which is administered by United Healthcare of Arizona.

    Recruitment of graduate students to the UA may be suffering because of these disparities, said Paul Thorn, GPSC president.

    “”If those institutions are offering benefits and tuition remission for their graduate students, it’s going to make it that much tougher to compete.””

    Provost George Davis said the UA could be more competitive with its plans.

    “”The better the options, the greater the leverage we’ll have to recruit graduates,”” he said.

    Graduate students and undergraduates have the same insurance plan at the UA, while other universities offer different plans for

    That’s not suggesting that we ought to not have them. I think benefits are a good thing to have. More coverage is wonderful, but there’s always the question of who pays for it, and how much is it?

    – Kris Kreutz,
    director of administrative services at Campus Health Services

    graduate students or graduate assistants and undergraduates, according to a GPSC study of health insurance plans of 15 of the UA’s peer institutions chosen by the Arizona Board of Regents.

    Separate graduate plans include prescription coverage at 13 of the 15 peer institutions, including the University of California at Berkeley, Texas A&M University and Ohio State University, according to the survey. Nine of the universities include dental coverage.

    The study also showed that more than half of the 15 universities offer subsidized or discounted benefits for spouses and dependents of graduate assistants. The UA does not provide such benefits for students’ spouses and children, Thorn said.

    Julia Hudson-Richards, a graduate teaching assistant in the history department, said her husband has no health insurance because it costs too much to add him to her student insurance plan.

    Although the UA covers the cost of campus health insurance for graduate teaching assistants and associates, spouses and children are not included.

    To have a spouse included on a student’s insurance plan, the total cost is $2,067 this semester, and the cost for a student, a spouse and children is $2,729.00, according to the Campus Health Web site.

    “”I think it’s appalling, but I’m not surprised,”” Hudson-Richards said.

    Hudson-Richards said that while some graduate assistants hold other jobs to get better benefits, most of the graduate assistants and associates cannot do that.

    Although she didn’t look at health benefits when choosing her graduate program, Hudson-Richards said, “”I kind of wish I had.””

    It’s important to understand that it is unknown to what extent the peer institutions have additional coverage, said Kris Kreutz, director of administrative services at Campus Health Services.

    The survey only asked whether an institution has a plan or benefit or not, and it does not assess the quality of the benefits, Kreutz said.

    “”That’s not suggesting that we ought to not have them,”” Kreutz said. “”I think benefits are a good thing to have. More coverage is wonderful, but there’s always the question of who pays for it, and how much is it.””

    Although survey respondents indicated that the UA does not offer prescription benefits with its plan, Kreutz said that isn’t the case.

    “”We do currently have a prescription benefit, although it is not clearly defined as that in the actual insurance product,”” Kreutz said.

    Campus Health Services offers reduced-cost prescriptions at the pharmacy, a 5 percent discount for insurance plan participants and patient assistance programs for students who qualify financially, Kreutz said.

    “”We think that that combination of arrangements equals a prescription benefit,”” he said.

    But the discounted medication may not always be available for students who have campus health insurance because the Campus Health pharmacy isn’t open 24 hours a day, Kreutz said.

    The Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee issued a request Sept. 14 to the board of regents for quotes on additional health benefits from insurance agencies to investigate the possibility of offering more health benefits to students, Kreutz said.

    The board of regents created the committee, which is made up of student and administrative representatives from all three state universities, in 2003 to oversee the selection of student health insurance plans, according to a memorandum of understanding between the three universities.

    The question is whether the committee and the universities will accept the cost of additional benefits, said Kreutz, who is the lead UA representative for the committee.

    The three universities are not required to agree to add benefits, Kreutz said. Any one university may offer its students additional benefits. The advantage of coming to a consensus through the committee is that the cost would be discounted for the universities and students, he said.

    Regardless of the added costs of additional dental and optical coverage, 74 percent indicated they were interested in purchasing supplemental vision coverage, and 94 percent were interested in purchasing supplemental dental coverage.

    This semester, 3,989 graduate students and 1,499 undergraduate students bought campus health insurance for the semester for $527.00, said Lori Piper, the insurance program coordinator for Campus Health Services. There are about 36,805 students enrolled at the UA.

    The survey questioned 698 graduate and professional students, slightly less than 10 percent of the UA’s graduate and professional student population, according to a summary of the survey by GPSC.

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