Birth control to be covered by university health insurance
AT A GLANCE
Student health insurance at Big 12 universities
University of Oklahoma: self insured
Oklahoma State University: self insured
University of Texas: self insured
University of Kansas: privately insured
Kansas State University: privately insured
West Virginia University: self insured
Texas Christian University: privately insured
Baylor University: self insured
Iowa State University: self insured
Texas Tech University: self insured
Source: Big 12 universities
University-provided student health insurance will now cover birth control and other preventative health care measures at no cost to students, according to Human Resources officials.
“The OU student health plan is covering most preventive services and increasing maximum available benefits on surgery, pharmacy and mental health services,” said Nick Kelly, vice-president of Human Resources, in an email.
These new measures are mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act, which was upheld by the Supreme Court on June 28. Although all private insurers are required to implement the health care reform, self-insured institutions are exempt from the changes, according to the government health care website.
OU is one of seven universities in the Big 12 that is self-insured and therefore not required by law to cover preventative health care, such as birth control.
Although not mandatory, Kelly said the decision to implement preventative health care coverage was made in an effort to remain competitive with other universities.
“Our ongoing review indicates that the changes made at OU are seen commonly at other major universities, whether the plans are self or fully insured,“ he said.
After reviewing information provided by the federal government this summer, Kelly said the decision to adopt the changes was finalized this month and went into effect Aug. 12.
“If they’re actually going to do it, that is excellent,” graduate student Amanda Fehlbaum said. “I am happy.”
Fehlbaum, who is 27, is one of 2,938 students currently insured under OU’s student health care plan. She reached out to Human Resources at the end of July to see if OU’s health insurance would now cover her birth control per the Affordable Care Act but was told it would not, she said.
Kelly said the decision had not yet been made to adopt preventative coverage at the time of Fehlbaum’s call.
Fehlbaum said she is relieved to hear the student insurance plan will now cover her birth control. She is looking forward to using the money she is saving on other necessary living expenses, she said.
Of the students insured through the university, 1,169 of them are women, meaning if they do use birth control, they can now get their prescription at the Goddard Health Center without paying a co-pay.
This will save the average, insured 25-year-old woman over $8,000 in their lifetime, according a cost calculator provided my Mother Jones — a nonprofit organization that specializes in investigative, political and social justice reporting.
OU has been a self-insured institution for 14 years, Kelly said. The difference in self-insured plans, as opposed to those provided by private companies, is that the self-insured group assumes the financial risk for providing its participants benefits, he said.
“In practical terms, a self-insured plan sponsor pays for all covered benefits, and the cost to administer the plan, instead of paying a fixed premium to an insurance company for a fully insured plan,” Kelly said.
This type of coverage helps keep students’ cost as low as possible, he said.
However, the university may be looking to change its health care coverage.
Diana Malott, who is the associate director of student health services at the University of Kansas, said OU officials contacted her recently interested about the program through which they insure their students. Kansas is not a self-insured institution and offers student health insurance through a multi-state compact between universities, called Midwest Higher Education compact — she said.
Malott said she does not see the benefit of universities self-insuring.
“At this time the only benefit that I can see is that they are not covered by the Affordable Care Act if they are self-insured, but I don’t see that as a benefit to the students or the university because the students don’t get the additional benefits that come with [the Affordable Care Act] and the university as I’ve seen and worked with some universities that are self-funded can be out a huge amount of money paying for claims.”
Kelly said there are not any current plans in place to change the university’s health care coverage, but they are continually evaluating health insurance options to ensure the best coverage possible for students.
Correction: The original story erronously reported Amanda Fehlbaum's age to be 27. Felhbaum is 26 years old.