Vandals looking to jump SHIP review insurance options
Browsing for health insurance may not be the first activity University of Idaho students want to do over winter break, but with open enrollment for the Idaho health insurance exchange ending Feb. 15, this was exactly what junior Samira Obeid set out to accomplish during Thanksgiving break.
“I’m a college student paying for everything myself, so I decided to see what was out there,” Obeid said. “It’s required to have to go to school, so it’s probably something you should check into to make a decision.”
Currently, Obeid is enrolled in the UI Student Health Insurance Program (SHIP). SHIP costs students $979 per semester and covers students year-round, according to SHIP Manager Lori Krasselt, who estimated between 22-25 percent of the student body is enrolled in the plan.
Krasselt said many other students are covered under their parents’ insurance plans. Due to provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which became law in 2010, students covered by their parent’s health insurance remain eligible for coverage until they are 26 years old.
The ACA gives people the option to browse the federal health insurance exchange or their home state’s website. Krasselt said while she has not personally checked out the insurance exchange websites, she’s heard from UI parents that comparable health insurance options offered through the exchange may not be the best deal for students.
“I had several parents comment to me that they had looked at plans … and those plans with the same benefits as SHIP are more,” Krasselt said. “Many students may not have an income threshold where they would be eligible for government subsidies, meaning they are responsible for the full cost of the premium.”
Idaho’s health insurance exchange website, called Your Health Idaho, categorizes its plans along a tiered system, starting from Catastrophic tier — the lowest monthly premium and highest deductible for medical services — and moves upward to Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum plans, which offer the lowest deductible with the most expensive monthly premium.
Krasselt said SHIP cannot be found on the exchange website, but based on the benefits and costs associated with SHIP it is comparable to the Silver tier policies which range anywhere from $194 to $279 a month.
In order to accommodate Your Health Idaho consumers who prefer to discuss business with a health insurance agent, the website features a help tool to locate nearby agents and provide their contact information. Kimberling Insurance Agency is one of the three Moscow businesses listed on the Your Health Idaho website, the agency is owned by Moscow resident Jon Kimberling.
Kimberling said he has not received many inquiries from UI students about the different health insurance policies offered by Your Health Idaho, although he said he expected students would become more inquisitive about options outside of SHIP after winter break.
“For those students that would qualify for government subsidies, then I think the plans that we have to offer could be very competitive,” Kimberling said. “In the case of someone who doesn’t qualify, from our early research, for a typical college student, the rates through the student health plan are perhaps a little more competitive.”
Obeid said she started scouting policies on the website after she received an email from the exchange about open enrollment beginning Nov. 19. In an effort to save money and find the plan best suited for her, she worked with her parents to find a policy on the Idaho exchange.
Obeid said the website was easy to use most of the time, although she often had to Google the definitions of different health insurance vocabulary. After comparing her different options, Obeid decided to stick with SHIP for UI’s spring semester and review her options further in a few months for the 2015-2016 academic year.
“Even though I didn’t get insurance from there, I learned a lot,” Obeid said. “When I am older and shopping for insurance on my own, I think it is good I have already had this experience shopping, and now I know what to look for.”
George Wood Jr. can be reached at email@example.com