UNC system seeks new health insurance

Today, the UNC system will release applications to insurance companies nationwide in search of a plan with a smaller price tag after this year’s $248.50 per-student increase in health insurance costs.

A new plan for UNC-system students for 2013-14 will be chosen by Feb. 15.

The N.C. Department of Insurance and the Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina will help review qualified applicants, such as Aetna and BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina.

By The Numbers

$460.50 – UNC-system student health insurance rate for 2011-12

$709 – UNC-system student health insurance rate for 2012-13

12 percent of cost increase due to Affordable Care Act

“This gives them a chance to compete for our business, which we hope will make prices competitive,” said Bruce Mallette, vice president for academic and student affairs for the UNC system.

The cost of the plan for students increased this year from $460.50 to $709 per semester, partially due to the expansion of benefits per the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

The increased benefits include coverage for birth control, pre-existing conditions and preventative services, such as vaccination shots.

About 50,000 students use the system’s plan, which is provided by Pearce & Pearce, a service arm of the insurance company Chartis. About 70 percent of students waive out of the plan.

Mallette said only about 12 percent of the cost increase was due to the Affordable Care Act.

Mary Covington, executive director of UNC’s Campus Health Services, said the increased amount of claims filed has also increased the price of the plan.

“There was concern about escalating cost, but students are voting on how much they like the policy by using its benefits,” she said.

Carolyn Pearce, chief operating officer at Pearce & Pearce, said the agency plans to bid on UNC again. She said the bidding process might not affect the cost of UNC’s plan because companies would all consider the same history of claims as a parameter.

“I would be surprised if prices went down, unless the benefits were changed,” she said.

Former UNC Association of Student Governments member Christine Hajdin will help review applications.

“Finding a balance between good coverage and low premiums is so important,” she said.

Covington said the plan is cheaper than plans at other institutions — the University of Virginia’s plan is $1,977 for both semesters, and the University of Michigan’s plan is $2,350.

“There was so much talk about the cost that students didn’t get enough education about the benefits,” Pearce said.

“Student plans are better than they have ever been,” she said. “Cheaper plans don’t have these benefits.”

Lindsey Rietkerk, co-founder of Tar Heels for Obama, praised the act for letting students stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.

But Greg Steele, chairman of the N.C. Federation of College Republicans, said student voters should factor rising health care costs into their decision at the polls.

Steele agrees with presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Obama is advocating for expanding the government role, which will cripple the economy.”

Contact the desk editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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