NAICU Washington Update

Associations Seek Clarity on Student Health Plans

October 01, 2010

Ever since President Obama signed sweeping health reform legislation into law, higher education associations, college representatives, insurance providers, and others have been attempting to clarify how the new law will apply to student health plans and services.

Conversations with White House staff on the matter indicated that the new law was not intended to alter the ability of colleges to offer health plans to their students, but concerns remain that the law could be interpreted and implemented differently.

A host of higher education associations, including NAICU, signed onto a letter originated by the American Council on Education (ACE) last month asking for clarification and confirmation that the new law would still allow colleges and universities to continue to offer student health plans and services that students and families have come to rely on, and retain the flexibility to offer these services in different ways. Since that time, the letter has been criticized by some as an attempt to exclude low-quality plans from quality reforms.

Colleges offer many different types of services and plans. Smaller schools might have a small infirmary and accommodate students who remain covered by their parents insurance. Others have first-rate medical and research facilities as part of the campus community and offer plans to students through them. There are also colleges that contract with insurance providers to offer services. The higher education community is being careful to avoid getting entangled with insurance providers that may have a self interest in offering their plans to our campuses.

These issues have received increased attention in the media lately (for example, this Inside Higher Ed story). We are concerned that some of these stories are being pushed by individuals or groups that stand to benefit if the administration writes final regulations that offer less flexibility for colleges and universities.

There has been no official response to the ACE letter from the White House yet, but communications are ongoing.

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