Spring semester 2012 marks the first semester requiring students to have health insurance if they are registered for six or more credits on campus, but there remains some confusion.
Students who have no health insurance are now on a plan through BSU. They were automatically signed up for the United Healthcare Student Resources plan when they indicated during registration that they did not have health insurance.
The fee for the insurance, $374 for spring semester, was placed on the students’ semester bills. According to Bemidji State’s Insurance Advocate Kim Schulz, the price for this four to five month period is similar to a single month’s cost for a family’s insurance.
Some students were financially unprepared for this new expense and right now these students have limited options. They cannot pay the fee for the health insurance, but they would have to make sure and exclude it when paying their bill, and the fee would still appear on the bill as unpaid.
Kari Cooper, Chair of University Affairs for Student Senate, says, “There’s no way for the system to check [if a student has health insurance].”
In other words, students are being trusted to report their insurance status accurately. If students do not want to have the United Healthcare Student Resources insurance, according to senior Senator Sarah Shepherd, “The only option students really have is to lie.”
They can do this by filling in an insurance provider even if they do not have one. Says Shepherd, “We don’t want students to be lying and that shouldn’t be their only option. So we’re looking into providing them with other options.”
Some students did not have health insurance at the time of registration but have since acquired it. Changing this status and changing insurance providers is easy for students to adjust in the school records.
In most cases, all students have to do is log in to their myBSU portal, click on “Settings” below the myBSU banner, and then click on the Student Health Insurance option on the left hand side. After making the necessary corrections, students click the “Submit” button and their insurance information will be updated.
Other times, it may not be so simple. For instance, although students have a relatively large window in which to sign up for the United Healthcare Student Resources health insurance, that window will close.
Students who find that their personal health insurance is lost sometime mid-semester might be unable to sign up for BSU’s plan through the simple method. Schulz reports reassuringly that in all the time she has spent working with students and this insurance company, “I think they’ve declined a request maybe once. It’s a very student-friendly provider.”
In cases where students may be unable to change the settings on their own or when students have a specific problem with their insurance, they can call Schulz. She says, “We can pretty much resolve anything quickly as long as they [the students] contact us.”
Students with the BSU insurance plan will soon receive an email telling them that their insurance cards will be available at the Student Center for Health and Counseling (SCHC). If students do not pick up their insurance cards, they will simply be kept at the SCHC.
If a student should lose their card, they can print one off of the United Healthcare Student Resources website, a link for which is provided on the SCHC insurance page. The first time a student uses the site will require a username and password, but after that, says Schulz, “It’s basically a three-minute process to print off a new card.”
The new insurance requirements have left many unanswered questions, but Schulz seems ready to take everyone’s on. She says, “I know this is an added expense for some students, but I’m glad we have this to offer them.”
Shepherd has recently received the results of a survey concerning the SCHC, including some data on the new insurance requirements. Forty-five percent of students surveyed reported anger, confusion, or other negative attitudes to the new insurance requirements. Student Senate is not done with this policy. Cooper says, “We’re still working on this policy,” which should give some reassurance to upset students.