UC SHIP, the University of California’s insurance program, will retain lifetime benefit caps despite the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Falling into a loophole, self-funded student health programs are exempted from many of the reforms required by Obamacare.
A lifetime benefit cap is the maximum amount of money an insurance policy will pay over the course of a lifetime for a person. Once it is reached, the insurance company is no longer responsible for covering medical costs. For UC Davis students under UC SHIP, this cap is $400,000.
Students are automatically enrolled into UC SHIP each year and must complete a waiver to show they have private insurance if they choose to opt out of the program. Over 128,000 students chose to remain enrolled in UC SHIP in Fall 2012.
It is unacceptable and unconscionable to retain benefit caps on students. To do so is to potentially expose students to not only crippling debt — on top of the crippling debt we already face — but to death.
According to Shelly Meron, media specialist at the UC Office of the President, benefit caps help reduce costs across the board for students and for the UC. However, in exchange for these savings, we place ourselves and everyone under UC SHIP at risk of bankruptcy, incomplete treatment or far worse.
If we are paying $1,275 per year to ensure that we will be safe when the worst happens, we should be safe. There is no excuse to find out, like UC Berkeley graduate student Kenya Wheeler, that your insurance will no longer cover your chemotherapy because your sickness is too expensive. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Wheeler had to hastily marry his girlfriend in order to receive her health care benefits just to survive.
This is unacceptable.
Making changes to benefits “would very likely would mean an increase in premiums,” according to Meron. However, UC SHIP premiums are already going up. According to the Daily Cal, UC SHIP premiums may increase by 25 percent to cover a $57 million deficit incurred by the UC’s miscalculations regarding its self-insurance.
Again, this is unacceptable.
This confluence of problems shows that UC SHIP is unsustainable and dangerous. UC must find a new model to ensure the health and welfare of its students. It cannot coerce students to buy into a program that does not fully protect them.