Watkins Health Center

Insurance premium increases could affect graduate and international students of the University of Kansas after the Kansas Board of Regents voted to amend the insurance policy for students attending state universities on Wednesday.

The Student Insurance Advisory Committee creates and manages KBOR's insurance plans.

KBOR Chairman Jon Rolph credited the SIAC for their diligent work in finding the best medium for the new plan.

“The Student Insurance Advisory Committee works really hard on the [plans] to make sure that we're doing the best we can for the students,” Rolph said.

Four plan options for students are available regarding their health insurance status, breaking down into four categories. Option 1 is for all other students who do not fall under the other categories. Option 2 is for students whose academic discipline requires health insurance. Option 3 is for graduate students eligible to receive a 75% per semester student premium. Option 4 is for international students. 

The board has used UnitedHealthcare since 2007 and has had options to select other plans, such as MHECare, but after the rebidding process, the UnitedHealthcare contract has remained.

Graduate Student Body President Hollie Hall, who serves on the Student Insurance Advisory Committee, has advocated to keep Option 1.

KBOR noted that the recent inflation increase of 6.5% from December 2021 to December 2022 had put significant pressure on the pool of money to pay out claims.

Hall said the board has discussed the elimination of Option 1 before, Hall said. Eliminating Option 1 forces students to pay nearly double through co-payments and out-of-pocket maximums. KBOR’s argument is there are only 172 students using Option 1, of which 86 are Kansas students.

This would result in higher out-of-pocket expenses and a higher deductible. To counter eliminating Option 1, the Board proposed significantly increasing rates.

“An 11% increase has been proposed; Option 1 current plan is estimated at $4,998. After the increase next year, the plan will be valued at $5,548. A $550 increase for the majority of students, while Options 2,3 and 4 are currently priced at $2,658, and next year, the plan will see a $292 increase to $2,950,” according to meeting minutes from the Feb. 15 meeting.

Another proposed plan favors Options 2,3 and 4 with a 6.5% increase, while Option 1 will double by increasing by 14.05%. By the numbers, Option 1 will now be increased by $705, while Options 2,3 and 4 will now be increased by $173.

The SIAC challenged the proposed plans.

“I feel like they pushed back where they could and the inflationary environment that comes through on insurance plans also,” Rolph said. “We hate to see them go up, but it would’ve been hard for us not to see that this year.”

The covered plans directly affect graduate students teaching or working at the University and international students who are federally required to have health care. Hollie fits into both categories - and according to her, there’s been an increase in premiums each year.

“Unfortunately, not only the impact of COVID but because within these plans, more, more is being requested than is given,” Hall said. “The current increase is literally to keep everything at the same rate, but all the services available that we had last year.”

The SIAC suggested plan under review will have a 6.5% increase for options 2,3 and 4, while Option 1 will only increase by 8.66%.

Hall said there might have to be another increase next year due to inflation.

“We are in a period of inflation,” Hall said. “I would not be surprised if another increase would have to occur next year, probably minimal, probably not as high as it was last year or this year.”

The goal was to aid students in financial support similar to the increase in campus fees within the past four years due to the pandemic, Hall said.

“We did the best we could for students to keep the same access to health care available,” Hall said. “If there wasn't an increase, there would have been higher expenses. We might have had to remove the $5 co-pay for prescriptions, which really negatively would affect students.”

As for the Board, Rolph said that their first goal is to get the best options for students.

“Our goal will always be to try and to get the options better than the exchange,” Rolph said.

When competing against the federal exchange, KBOR examines the broader economy and the medical industry before adjusting the premiums.

“We do the best we can against some of those macro trends,” Rolph said. “The key is you can keep your premiums down if you’re going through campus options for your basic health care needs.”

The changes still await approval by the Kansas Insurance Board.