International Educator - March/April 2013 - 57
ment at Boston University, which has a
significant international population. “Some
international student groups have asked if
we can delay this for a year, but our response has been we’ve got to be compliant.”
Jennifer Haubenreiser, director of
health promotion at Montana State University, said international students could
in the past get away with very basic policies that provided minimal coverage at
relatively low cost.
There are distinctions
between a university’s
have insurance and
program regulations that
require them to have it.
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M A R + A P R . 13
“Now, they have to have the same level
of benefits that an American student has
under ‘Obamacare’,” she said. “The Affordable Care Act is putting everyone in
the same line here. It’s not up to individual campuses to determine. The U.S. State
Department doesn’t want students coming here without adequate insurance.”
Of course, there are distinctions between a university’s requirement that
international students have insurance and
exchange visitor program regulations that
require them to have it. The issue isn’t
always black and white depending on a
specific university’s requirement for international students to have insurance.
Clancy has run numbers on what it
would cost to provide a university-sponsored plan to international students at
Boston University. Because of the ACA’s
requirements, the “basic” plan’s prescription coverage increased from the current
$2,000 a year to $100,000 at the beginning
of the 2012–2013 academic year.
“We were throwing out our costs—
percentage increases in the teens based
on these changes—and the people here
thought I wasn’t serious,” said Clancy,
who did not share what the university
pays for its plan.
Doug Graham, Aon’s vice president of
student medical plans, said there could
be unintended ramifications because of
higher insurance costs for international
students. His firm has found that students—even under lower cost, lower
coverage plans—tend to take advantage
of the benefits. Higher costs, he said, may
translate into even higher use of benefits.
“Once they figure out the insurance,
they know how to use it to their advantage,” he said. “On some campuses, for
instance, there have been huge increases
of C-sections during the semester that a
student completes her U.S. study. International students understand this, and
they understand how to use the insurance for their purposes.”
Clancy isn’t convinced that higher costs
will affect international attendance at U.S.
schools. “It’s a great unknown, but I don’t
know if it will be enough of a factor that
they will go to another country,” he said.
What are the options international
students have for purchasing insurance?
One is to take advantage of the plans
that universities—typically private institutions—offer as part of an international
student’s yearly fees. But because schoolsponsored plans recognize they will have
to charge significantly more under the
ACA, some may reconsider offering
coverage to continue attracting students,
says Teresa Koster, division president at
Arthur J. Gallagher, a consulting brokerage risk management firm.
“When a school plan costs $1,000
a year, schools were comfortable with
saying ‘OK, that’s part of the cost of attendance,’” Koster said. “But if it’s now
going to cost $1,700 a year, schools may
not feel comfortable adding that fee on to
tuition—along with all the other fees that
impact someone’s ability to go to school.”
Instead, she says, schools may point
international students to insurer-offered
plans that may not be subject to the ACA