UC Berkeley students will have a health insurance option in addition to the Berkeley Student Health Insurance Plan as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Covered California, the state’s new marketplace for health insurance coverage, enables people to review different insurance plans and receive financial assistance to help pay for them. Although coverage will not take effect until Jan. 1, 2014, enrollment for health plans began last week.
“Under the ACA, basically all the health insurance plans have to provide health insurance benefits,” said Sarah Sol, an information officer at Covered California. “These include, but are not limited to, preventive care, prescription drug coverage and chronic disease management.”
With the ACA, states must either set up their own marketplace or do so through the federal government. California, along with states such as Oregon, New York and Nevada, opted to establish its own marketplace.
The act mandates all health insurance plans must now meet a minimum standard of quality, such as offering people health coverage even if they have a pre-existing medical condition.
Although all UC students must have health insurance under a UC Regents mandate, students are now presented with both Berkeley SHIP and plans offered under Covered California.
Health insurance packages through Covered California could be less costly than plans offered through the university, said Kim LaPean, communications manager for the Tang Center at UC Berkeley.
For example, Covered California offers a minimum coverage plan to people below the age of 30 to prevent financial disaster in the event of a medical emergency.
However, LaPean said Berkeley SHIP has the benefit of close, highly accessible networks.
“When students are enrolled in Berkeley SHIP, they can see our counselors, specialists, nurses and doctors at the Tang Center right now,” LaPean said. “If we don’t have necessary resources readily available, we can refer out into the community providers. What we know so far is that these exchanges (through Covered California) are going to have smaller networks.”
Both options provide some of the same services, including fully covered preventive care and permission for people 26 years of age or younger to remain on their parents’ health care plans.
Between now and next year, University Health Services will be displaying information online and conducting forums allowing students to obtain a greater understanding of both options, LePean said.
“(The students) still have time to make sure that they’re making the right choices,” LePean said. “We don’t want students to be fearful of these health exchanges offered by Covered California. We want students to be engaged, informed and to really understand what their options are.”