Kean drops health insurance plan for students
By Rebecca Panico | Published Oct. 22, 2016
Kean stopped providing health insurance to students this fall and is instead directing them to the Affordable Care Act website, more commonly known as Obamacare.
The change comes in the wake of state legislation from 2013, which sought to make higher education more affordable by nixing the requirement that students needed health insurance to attend college.
“Students have the freedom to choose their own health care plan rather than purchase a university sponsored plan,” Kean University spokeswoman Margaret McCorry said in an email, adding that other universities like Stockton, New Jersey City University, Ramapo College and William Paterson University no longer provide an insurance policy through the school too.
Kean University’s former health insurance policy, offered through UnitedHealthCare Inc., cost $1,480 for undergraduates and $2,150 for graduate students in fall 2015, McCorry said.
Over 1,130 students were enrolled in the plan, according to McCorry, who noted that the numbers were “inflated” because some students mistakenly failed to waive the school’s insurance by deadline.
Students at Kean University were informed of the changes to the health care policy via email in April and July. Federal regulation still requires everyone to have health insurance coverage or they will be penalized in their taxes.
Some schools like The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) still require students to have insurance and automatically enroll them in the Student Injury and Sickness Insurance Plan unless they show proof of insurance from another source. Students who do not waive the school’s insurance are billed $1,605 for the plan.
TCNJ explains on their website that it offers coverage to help those who aren’t covered under a parent’s plan. TCNJ’s estimates that about 10 percent of students in the state are not covered.
Meanwhile, Rutgers University — which also requires students to provide proof of insurance to enroll while still offering a plan for purchase through the school — provides this interpretation of the bill on their website:
“On July 5, 2013, the State of New Jersey repealed longstanding legislation that made it mandatory for full-time students attending New Jersey’s colleges and universities to have health insurance. The state preserved the part of the law, however, that requires colleges and universities to offer health insurance for purchase by full-time students.”
Senators Ron Rice (D-Essex) and Robert Singer (R-Monmouth) were sponsors senate bill 2291 from 2013.
The New Jersey Council of County Colleges (NJCCC) — an organization that works to improve student success — pushed to eliminate the healthcare requirement for students in the legislature nearly three years ago.
The NJCCC, in an open letter to legislators in 2013, estimated that the cost of student health insurance plans would increase from $100 a year to over $1500 annually under the federal Affordable Care Act, effectively making college unaffordable for many students.
The New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities (NJASCU), a non-governmental agency created by the state legislature to advance and advocate higher education in the state, weighed in on the change.
Each university or college’s governing body, like a school’s Board of Trustees, determines whether to offer health insurance — or require it — based upon the profile of the student body, said NJASCU CEO Mike Klein.
“The profile of students is different” at each university or college, he said. “A more residential setting where students are on campus 24/7 and more accidents can happen…that’s part of the reasoning.”
Schools would act as a middleman between insurance companies and students, said Klein, but would probably bear some administrative costs to handle things like paperwork involved in enrolling students in a plan.