When you have something handed to you in life, you tend to take it for granted. As a young child, your parents dedicated their lives to assuming responsibility for anything and everything related to your health. This includes, but was not limited to, scheduling annual well checks, dental cleanings and — most importantly — paying for any outstanding balances. Fast forward eighteen years later: the time has come for you to be autonomous and attend Stony Brook University. Prior to classes commencing, you log into SOLAR to review all of your expenses that are due. You realize a fee of $1,542 for student health insurance is tacked onto the long slew of other fees in your total tuition. $2,134.46 will also be charged to your spring semester statement. In total, the student health plan’s rate fails to account for the additional costs that accumulate from deductibles and copays.
To break these large values into more digestible amounts, the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) is charging students $306.37 per month. This is the same amount I personally allocate for my groceries on a monthly basis. The average insurance premium through the health care marketplace is astronomically higher than the discounted rate the University provides. Still, $3,676.46 for each calendar year is a hefty price tag for any student generating little to no income.
According to Stony Brook’s Student Health Service page, the United Healthcare Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan consists of a $200 deductible. This amount reflects how much you need to pay in a policy period before the insurance covers your medical expenses. For each appointment with a specialist or a primary care physician, a fixed amount of $35 — coined as a copay — would be your responsibility the day of the service. A $15 copay to any in- or out-patient mental health provider and a $100 copay for any visits to the emergency room are also part of the plan’s provisions. No mention of pharmacy benefits is explained; however, a separate deductible for prescriptions is commonly included in other health care plans.
If students go to the Student Health Service Center on campus, they get a discount deductible rate. However, if a student seeks treatment from an out-of-network provider, higher fees and balances are likely to result. While I cannot personally attest to Stony Brook’s services at their health center, students have expressed valid concerns via Google reviews. “The campus infirmary is closed on weekends, when most people need it. That’s pretty ridiculous. They also close very early even on weekdays,” one review says.
As the season of sniffles and coughs is upon us, it is quite essential that access to medical attention is readily available. More importantly, for those with chronic diseases. Most — if not all — of us are so engrossed in our studies during the week, that we only truly have time to tend to anything outside of that realm on the weekends. This implication should not weigh on our health and pockets.
A glimmer of hope does exist, however. Students have the option to waive their health insurance fee. If you are someone that falls under the category of enduring financial hardship, you may qualify for government subsidized insurance plans, known as Medicaid. Stony Brook will consider those plans originating in New York and have comparable coverage; they will then deduct the cost of the student health fee as long as you can access a health professional within 25 miles of the University. You can also waive the fee if you claim and prove you fall under your parent’s health insurance. Punctuality counts too, as you must fill out the waiver on time each year.
At 26, I waved goodbye to my parents no deductible, $0 copay health plan. After two years of living life on the edge and being uninsured, I began my own quest of finding a plan that suited my health needs. Signing up for the most inexpensive plan with the most comprehensive coverage was the goal. I never knew that these two factors did not exactly coexist.
I decided to join the catastrophic plan through Oscar costing me $170 each month. This specific plan is designed for those under the age of 30. It is suited for extreme circumstances, preventing copious amounts of money to accrue in medical bills. A simple physical, OB-GYN preventative screening, as well as any lab work that may be performed during the encounters are all covered. Anything beyond that is subject to a whopping $10,000 deductible. As a healthy, young woman, this premium makes sense, or so I thought. Stony Brook did not deem this health plan to be adequate enough to waive my student health insurance and therefore denied my request. This leaves students like me with no other option, but to cough up the cash.
Although the introduction of the Affordable Care Act significantly lowered the amount of people between the ages of 18-23 who don’t have health care, this demographic continues to remain the largest population without insurance — just under 20% to be exact. It is no coincidence that this age group falls in the realm of those attending college. With costs rising and education of what insurance consists of dwindling, a solution and a call to action are pertinent. The jargon and complexities within the world of insurance create a space for misconception to run haywire. We must not only be our own best advocates by remaining informed, but also cognizant of what our health is truly worth.