Student health care rate extended to spouse and children

Voluntary plan with low-cost premium is “better than most” available

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Good news for students with a spouse or child: insurance plans for the upcoming year are set to drop in price after Student Senate voted in overwhelming support of a new — and less expensive — policy rate for students and their families at the final meeting of the session Monday night.

The continuation of next year’s policy extends a fixed rate of $1,579 to a student’s spouse and any children for next year, according to the memorandum.

Last year, spouses and children had to pay higher fees than students enrolled with 5 or more credits. To match this fixed rate, spouses can expect to pay $3,500 less for coverage this year, and the price tag for a child runs approximately $1,800 less, according to the memorandum.

Don Southard, the insurance agent through which the Student Health Insurance Program is available, presented the summary of benefits Monday night, and said on an individual basis, this voluntary plan is “better than most” plans available due to its low-cost premium of $500 dollars.

Southard said it’s difficult to find plans with anything less than a $1,000 premium.

“You can’t buy this plan on the open market,” Southard said.

Coverage of all unmarried dependents is required in the state of Wisconsin until age 27, according to Wisconsin State Statues. Southard estimates 1-2-percent of the student body is enrolled in the student insurance plan, with most claiming insurance with their parents and about 10-percent attending uninsured.

But the penalty for going uncovered: $675 minimum, or 2-percent of a person’s gross income taken out of their next Federal tax return, Southard said.

That number will continue to grow until the fine reaches $2,000, he said.

Southard said existing short-term plans, which aren’t available at Eau Claire, have “major” differences: they offer less coverage in terms of mental health care and have many pre-existing conditions which may disqualify policyholders from care .

And because short-term plans aren’t in compliance with the Affordable Care Act, any policyholder can expect a fine.

“Why would you want (a short-term plan), especially one that does not comply?” Southard said.

Senator Ryan Spaight said not having insurance is “risky,” and the voluntary program provides a way for students to feel safe on campus.

“There are only a minority of students who take advantage of the program, but for those who do it’s extremely important we offer this,” he said.