Student Health Insurance Plans Skyrocket at UNLV

UNLV students who get health insurance through the school face sticker shock.

Premiums for the Student Health Insurance Plan for undergraduates have risen from about $1,000 to $1,945 for fall semester. For undergraduate nursing students, the price is $1,736.

The change sent one nursing student to the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange where she received comparable coverage for a fraction of the cost.

Denise Wright said she went online a couple weeks ago to renew her health insurance for her third semester in UNLV’s School of Nursing. The Hawaii native had been covered through the student plan her first two semesters for $700 to $800 per term.

When she saw the price increase, Wright went to Nevada Health Link, the insurance marketplace for the state, and was able to enroll and pay about what she used to pay for coverage through UNLV. It will cost her about $700 for the semester.

About 150 students have insurance with the student plan through Wells Fargo Insurance-Aetna, and they should have received letters telling them about the rate increase, UNLV spokesman Tony Allen said Wednesday. That’s about half the number of students who participated in the 2010-11 school year.

One faculty member said he was aware students would be paying more for insurance, but he didn’t hear about the change through any official notification.

“It doesn’t surprise me that they didn’t tell anybody,” the professor said, preferring not to leave his name.

But the change won’t affect all students. The Affordable Care Act contains a clause allowing children to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until they turn 26.

Henderson resident Joseph “Joey” Ellison, 18, said $1,945 was more than a quarter of his tuition, so he is happy to have his parents’ coverage. The Las Vegas Academy grad said he could not afford the student plan.

“That wouldn’t be an option for me at this time,” Ellison said.

Christie Parker, 36, is a behavioral health specialist who works with autistic children and is working on her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She doesn’t have health insurance and so far has avoided any penalties under the Affordable Care Act, which stipulates that people must have a health coverage exemption or pay a fee if they can afford health insurance but choose not to buy it.

“I want insurance, of course,” Parker said. “I understand the importance of it. It’s just a cost issue.”

Student health insurance is mandatory for students in UNLV’s schools of Dental Medicine and Nursing. All graduate and international students are automatically enrolled in the student plan unless they submit an approved online insurance waiver of comparable coverage. The 2,200 dental, nursing, graduate and international students have a cheaper option, and that plan only rose from $901 to $914 for fall semester, said Allen, the university spokesman.

The premiums for those students is cheaper because the pool of participants is bigger, lowering the risk to the insurers.

One international student informed Wednesday of the health insurance cost said he was going straight to his adviser. Kenvin Mbeikya, 25, of Bukoba, Tanzania, has been in the United States for about a month.

If he gets covered through the university, the mechanical engineering student will be paying much more than he did back home.

At the Arusha Technical College in northern Tanzania, Mbeikya was covered through the school for $25 per year.

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