Commissioner, Division of Health Care Finance and Policy
This week, Governor Patrick announced the culmination of an unprecedented collaborative effort amongst state and community colleges and state agencies to improve access to affordable student health insurance in Massachusetts.
As early as this August, state and community colleges will offer students a health insurance option that features enhanced benefits, such as access to a broader provider network and medical management tools, with minimal change in premium cost. Its important to note that the new option will eliminate benefit limits (including maximum dollar coverage limit for all services provided in a year and per illness and injury caps on outpatient services) that at times can leave students with unaffordable medical bills.
The Governor directed this multi-stakeholder collaborative to reform student health insurance after reviewing our report on student health programs in Massachusetts. The Student Health Programs Baseline Report, released by the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy in November 2009, showed that students were not receiving appropriate coverage or value through their current student health plans. Of particular concern was the number of students exceeding their benefit coverage limits, exposing students to significant out-of-pocket costs.
In response to our report, Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland convened the Student Health Plan Steering Committee, including students and administrators from the Commonwealth’s state and community colleges, as well as representatives from the University of Massachusetts; Commonwealth Connector Authority; the Department of Higher Education; the Executive Office of Education; the Executive Office for Administration and Finance; the Executive Office of Health and Human Services; and the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy.
Moving forward, the Division will continue to support student health insurance reform by collecting, analyzing, and reporting data from school plans. We intend to release an updated report on student health programs later this spring.
The Division will continue to collaborate with the steering committee to expand the group purchasing effort. The University of Massachusetts system has committed to join the procurement next year bringing an additional 13,000 students, and there is similar interest from several private institutions. As the effort expands, the steering committee plans to develop a model which allows students to choose the health plan that best meets their needs and exercise greater choice over their benefit options. This effort has demonstrated the effectiveness of consolidated purchasing and leveraging the professional health insurance expertise of the Connector to achieve greater value for students. Moving forward, we hope to continue to build upon the successes of this initiative by expanding high value student health options to an even broader base of students and schools.
For more information about student health insurance in Massachusetts, including the related reports, FAQs, and regulatory material, please visit www.mass.gov/chia. You can also follow the Division’s news and updates on www.twitter.com/Mass_CHIA.
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