The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is bringing changes to insurance plans across the country, and Bowdoin’s is no exception. Students on the College’s health care plan could see increases of up to 16 percent in their premiums next year.
To comply with the new law, the College’s health insurance will provide dental and vision care for students under 19 for the first time next year. The plan has also gradually been phasing out coverage limits for individual conditions, and next year all such limits will be eliminated.
The likely increases in premiums will be a result of these expansions, as well as new taxes and fees starting next year. Those taxes are expected to raise rates anywhere from 2 percent to 6 percent. This year, the premium for the College’s plan $1,544.
“We expect that insurance rates are going to go up next year, and some of it we’re expecting to attribute to some of those fees, and then the next part is how some of the required changes under the ACA will play out,” said Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Kim Pacelli.
Bowdoin’s insurance is underwritten by UnitedHealthcare. The Illinois-based Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services Inc. assists the College in designing the plan.
The majority of students opt to waive the College’s insurance plan and stay on another plan instead. This semester, 537 students are enrolled in Bowdoin’s plan—about 30 percent of the student body. Five teaching fellows are also on the plan.
To waive the plan, Student Health Insurance Coordinator Leslie Nuccio said, students need a health care plan that can easily provide them with local care. This can take the form of a preferred provider organization with physicians in the area or a point of service plan, where patients can receive care outside of their provider’s network.
Bowdoin is less likely to approve of health maintenance organizations (HMOs). These plans often only cover urgent and emergency care, meaning that students would have to return to their home doctor for things like physical therapy or preventative care.
“That’s why Bowdoin’s hard and fast rule is, if it’s an HMO plan, you have to have the school insurance policy,” said Nuccio.
Both Nuccio and Pacelli mentioned the possibility of the price increase being as high as 16 percent, but they emphasized that much is still up in the air.
“We don’t know that it’ll be 16 percent,” said Pacelli. “When you hear people in the student health insurance industry talking about what rates might do, they’re sort of talking across all students and all student health insurance plans. That’s why we work really closely with Gallagher to discern the best way we can structure our student health insurance plan.”
Pacelli said that the College is currently in discussions with Gallagher to see exactly how much more plans will cost, and expects to have an estimate from the company in about six weeks.
“Obviously, we need to make sure [our plan is] ACA-compliant, and we want to do that, but we also want to make sure that it’s affordable for students and families,” said Pacelli.
In recent years, the College has already moved to increase the services included on its plan, in part to comply with the ACA.
When Bowdoin first partnered with Gallagher in 2005, Nuccio said, the plan had a $5,000 maximum per condition. That number increased gradually to $50,000, where it stayed until it increased to $100,000 when implementation of the ACA began in the 2012-2013 academic year. This year, the maximum is $500,000, and next year there will be no maximum.
Routine physicals are also a relatively recent development.
“It used to be accident and sickness only, nothing preventative. Now it’s changed to be compliant with the ACA,” Nuccio said.
With the expanded coverage, premiums have already risen dramatically.
“In 2005 the premium was probably less than $500, and now it’s $1,544 for this year, starting this past fall,” said Nuccio.
With another increase expected, Pacelli said the College was open to making additional changes to the plan in efforts to keep it affordable, such as potentially instituting a deductible.
“Right now, we don’t have a deductible under the Bowdoin insurance plan,” she said. “We’re going to look at what it’ll cost to keep that next year.”