UNC-system health insurance to be covered by BlueCross

After student health insurance premiums nearly doubled this year, the UNC system has decided to change providers from Pearce and Pearce Inc. to BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina.

Administrators said the new health insurance provider was selected for multiple reasons, including affordability.

BlueCross BlueShield has proposed a plan of $1,290 per year, almost $130 less than this year’s $1,418 premium, said Brian Usischon, the system’s associate vice president for human resources and university benefits officer.

STUDENT HEALTH INSURANCE

5,200
UNC-CH students enrolled in the UNC system’s health insurance plan

40,000
students enrolled in the plan systemwide

$1418
Annual premium for current system plan

$1290
Annual premium proposed by BlueCross BlueShield

But the final cost is still being negotiated, he said.

“We’re still working on price — that’s the biggest piece,” he said.

BlueCross BlueShield also offered to place a cap on price increases for the next three years, Usischon said.

BlueCross BlueShield was selected as the next health insurance provider after the system considered input from all 17 campuses, he said. Other bids came from Pearce and Pearce Inc., the system’s current provider, United HealthCare Services Inc. and Aetna Inc.

Usischon said benefits will remain relatively the same for the 40,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the health insurance plan systemwide.

The copay and deductibles students pay will not change, but the cap on the amount of student health care spending will rise from $100,000 to $500,000 next year, and will be unlimited by 2014-15, Usischon said.

“Essentially, it’s the same design in terms of what benefits exist now,” he said.

Pam Silberman, clinical professor of health policy and management at UNC, said the system’s health care was altered to meet new requirements under the Affordable Care Act, which requires every student attending a college or university to have health insurance coverage.

Those changes included no annual or lifetime maximum on spending by 2014-15 and coverage of preventative services such as contraception, Silberman said.

Usischon said the insurer must continue to meet those requirements.

BlueCross BlueShield’s plan is popular in the state, and will provide additional conveniences to students, he said.

He said a notable aspect of the plan is a mobile application that allows students to complete their health insurance waiver more quickly, with students being notified almost immediately if their waiver is approved.

Wake Forest University, which also uses BlueCross BlueShield as its health insurance provider, has been pleased with the coverage and its cost, said Caitlin Burchette, senior benefits administrator at Wake Forest, in an email.

“What I hear from parents is that the plan is both comprehensive and affordable,” she said.

Contact the desk editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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