SIU Health Insurance Struggles to Meet Federal Law


By Fanna Haile-Selassie
By Jared Roberts

CARBONDALE -- There's a headache coming for SIU administrators and the students that rely on the university's health insurance. The school's policy may not meet the standards required by the Affordable Care Act.

This year, the university had to get an exemption just to meet what's called "minimum essential coverage." Now, administrators are trying to figure out what to do next year.     

Most college students on financial plans don't always look at their semester bills. If they did, they'd see that their health insurance fee has been going up nearly every year for quite some time. So one might think they're getting their money's worth.
"Our health insurance is considered to meet the minimum essential coverage by the ACA, because we are a self-funded student health insurance plan," explains Lori Stettler, SIU's Assistant Vice Chancellor of Auxiliary Services.
That minimum means students don't have prescription drug coverage. According to the graduate assistants' union, it also means there's no expanded preventative care or exemptions for preexisting conditions that the Affordable Care Act guarantees.
"We hope to work with the administration to insure that our insurance plan isn't just minimally compliant, that we do get to have the benefits that we were guaranteed to have under the ACA," explains grad student Sandy Kim.
Kim and Bob Velez say getting full health benefits are especially important to graduate students since the majority have dependents or are too old to stay on their own parent's insurance.
"They teach classes, they do administrative work, they do research for the university, and providing health insurance for your employees is just the right thing to do," says Velez.
On Thursday, members of the Student Insurance Committee got an update on where SIU stands on next year's insurance policy. It looks less likely that SIU will meet the minimum coverage standard next year.
"The days of $345  a semester are gone," exclaims Jim Hunsaker, the Student Health Services Assistant Director.
And that could mean big changes to come for students.
"We are going to investigate all of our options," explains Stettler. "At this point, because there is so much uncertainty, we can't really say we will or won't be in the insurance business next year."
The union for grad assistants says its members are willing to pay more for full coverage. 
In the next couple of weeks, SIU administrators will see what insurance options are available. They will know if they'll meet the minimum coverage standards by the end of the this semester.
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