Health Care mandate would come in time of rising costs

Health care premiums are expected to increase  by roughly 30 percent by the time Marquette’s health care mandate goes into effect. Carolyn Smith, executive director of Student Health Services, shared details about the expected price increase with MUSG representatives during a meeting last month.

“The vendors that we have been going out to are anticipating, because of what is going to be required for all insurance carriers to provide, about a 30 percent increase,” Smith said.

She said the increase would bring costs up to about $2,300 to $2,500 from the current annual rate of $1,900  if there is an institutional health insurance requirement. If the university remains as a voluntary plan, the cost could go up to as much as $4,000.

As a benefit manager in the Department of Human Resources, Steven McCauley works to ensure that the Marquette faculty health plan meets the requirements outlined in the Affordable Care Act. McCauley said the staff health insurance policy is handled separately from the student plan, so the student insurance mandate will have no effect on Marquette employees’ premiums.

Marilyn Frenn, an associate professor in the College of Nursing with a specialization in health policy, said the premium costs of group insurance policies are mainly dependent on the health risk of the pool.

“Premium costs tend to be based on the estimated risk of the group of people included on any policy,” Frenn said. “Having more people insured would likely reduce the premium, since the odds of any individual who needed expensive care would be spread across a larger number of people.”

In the case of Marquette’s probable university-wide health insurance requirement, Frenn said the relatively low average age of the students insured will likely work to their advantage.

“Since younger people have less chronic illness and in most cases have fairly low risk of expensive hospital admissions, including a large number of younger people might reduce premium costs,” Frenn said. “However, as the group is insured the actual costs will be used to determine premium costs.”

Marquette Student Government sent a resolution to the university last month with four recommendations to the proposed student health insurance requirement and one main goal – keeping costs low.

The first two requests asked that the university “recognizes the unique financial situations of each student” and “ensures that the cost of this program does not become a hindrance to the financial accessibility of Marquette.” The next two recommendations asked that the university “remain transparent through the adoption of this new program” and “include a plan for communicating the requirements, process and other intricacies relating to the administration of the new health care policy to the student body.”

The university-wide health insurance mandate will go into effect in fall 2013 if the Board of Trustees approves the proposal at its meeting in December. If the decision is postponed until its spring meeting, the 5.6 percent of currently uninsured Marquette students will need to be added to their parents’ health plan, purchase their own insurance or pay for the university plan by fall 2014.