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United Healthcare and Saint Joseph Regional Sign AgreementAuthor: Individual Health Insurance
UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) company, and Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, a South Bend-based not-for-profit health care system, have signed a new agreement that expands access to affordable, quality health care for UnitedHealthcare customers in North Central Indiana.
In the tight economy, other universities including Villanova, Drexel, and Fordham have also mandated insurance in order to avoid excessive bills due to accidents or illness. Perry explained that the policy is in the process of becoming Pennsylvania state law.
Universities mandating health insurance cover
Health insurance is now mandatory for Saint Joseph's undergraduate day students.
In the past, students who did not have health insurance and were in need of emergency care were sometimes covered at the university's expense, although Saint Joseph's was under no obligation to do so.
This year, however, the university opted to mandate health insurance to avoid exorbitant costs and ensure student safety.
Mary-Elaine Perry, Ed.D., assistant vice president for Student Development, said that concern for the welfare of the student body is what mainly prompted the university to make health insurance a requirement.
"We have had students who have not gotten tests that could have diagnosed a situation because they didn't have health insurance and they couldn't afford the tests," she said. "In some cases the student health center has picked up the cost, which can be very expensive, and so we are taking away our ability to serve other students in the way that we are supposed to be serving them-colds, strep throat, etc."
While the new health insurance policy may prove expensive for students who have thus far avoided healthcare policies, it is not expected to bring about any monumental change in student life. A majority of students enrolled at Saint Joseph's already have health insurance.
"We have many students who are insured, most of our students when they first arrive here have health insurance through their families," said Perry. "In this economy, many parents are losing jobs, companies are cutting benefits, and students may be losing their benefits when they get above a certain age and are dropped from the family's health insurance."
Perry explained that it is normally the smaller percentage of students who lack health insurance who also cannot afford to cover the cost of tests or emergency care that are not readily accessible in the university's health center.
"It's trying to protect all of our students against what might be an unfortunate illness or accident that would cause them to have either large bills or not get the care that they need," explained Perry.
"The state of Pennsylvania has a bill in the state house to mandate student health insurance," Perry said. "We want to get out in front of that because oftentimes when the state passes legislation, there is a fairly quick turn around in having to implement it and so we need to make sure that our policies are in line with their regulations."
Families will now be required to either secure health insurance from an outside provider or purchase it through the university itself. Now that the policy is mandatory, however, Saint Joseph's has sought to reduce the cost of its own policy to make it more easily attainable.
"When it was optional, the cost was higher, because those students were self-selecting; by mandating it we have brought the cost down to make it more affordable," said Perry.
The university has already set about informing families of the mandated coverage. Although there are still students who are not insured, Perry believes the transition process is going smoothly.
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