New student health care plan “breaks down the silos”

SOU Provost Jim Klein addresses questions about student health care at a recent ASSOU meeting.

A new student healthcare plan has been revealed for the 2012-2013 academic year, developed as a collaborative effort by Southern Oregon University administration and Associated Students of Southern Oregon University.

Student government members consider this the first step toward bridging the gap between students and administration, a rift created at the end of last year after a series of layoffs set students and university administration against each other.

“This was the first step this year towards collaboration between the administration and student government in terms of breaking down the silos,” said Jay Goodin, ASSOU gender equality and sexual diversity senator. Goodin was one of the students on the committee for healthcare subsidies that developed the new healthcare plan.

The new plan is a $538 per term health insurance option, with a subsidy that will pay for half of the premium for students who qualify. Students who meet the criteria will have to go through an application process and must be unable to receive health insurance from any other source, including parents, spouses or the state. If a student doesn’t qualify for the subsidy they can still purchase health insurance at the full $538 per term.

Students who apply and qualify to benefit from the subsidy will only have to come up with $269 on their own, which will be billed to their student account. The money for this subsidy comes from a $25 fee that all SOU students have to pay per term.

This plan, known as “Plan A,” was one of two options thoroughly examined for the current school year. The other plan discussed, “Plan B,” involves reimbursement for student medical bills up to $500 per term, but only after students have paid their medical bills out of pocket. The reimbursement fund would be managed on a first-come-first-serve basis until the money runs out.

After a meeting  between several members of SOU administration and members of ASSOU in late September, “Plan A” was chosen over “Plan B” due to the possibility of serving more students.

“We want to implement something that serves the most students in need,” said Goodin, explaining that the statement was representative of all who were involved in the development of the healthcare plans.

In February, the cost-effectiveness of this new healthcare will be re-evaluated with the possibility of then implementing a hybrid of both plans “A” and “B”. It is estimated that $100,000 will be spent on the plan by that time.

Even if a hybrid model of the healthcare plans is adopted, it will still only hold for the current school year. The possibility of a “hard waiver” plan is being examined for next year, a system where students can sign a waiver declaring that they do not have insurance and they plan on continuing education at SOU without insurance at their own risk. Other schools in the Oregon University System have been considering such a plan.

There would likely still be insurance available for students who would wish to purchase it voluntarily through Gallagher Koster, with an estimated cost of $3,000 per year.

“Our ultimate goal is to get healthcare for all students,” said Goodin.

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