Student Health Services offers new insurance options

USF students can now purchase insurance for their domestic partners as a result of changes to the Student Health Services (SHS) insurance provider.

Alan Kent, assistant vice president for student affairs, said this is an expensive move for the University but one that extends benefits to a greater portion of the campus community.

“Last year, the University added domestic partner benefits for faculty and staff … so it was unusual that faculty and staff would have this benefit without students having it,” he said. “We looked into it with United Health Care, which is our new students’ health provider, and they do allow people to buy domestic partner coverage for same-sex or opposite-sex couples.”

Kent said that students purchasing coverage for their domestic partner will receive the same benefits as married couples at the same cost. However, the basic cost of coverage has increased by 54 percent since the new plan was implemented in mid-August.

For the “voluntary population” – students that choose to purchase the plan – the cost of basic coverage is $5,938 per year, according to the SHS website. For the “mandated or supported population” – students who must purchase insurance through SHS or receive University subsidies for coverage – the cost is $3,750 per year.

“It’s not inexpensive, I’ll be honest with you, but health insurance in general is not inexpensive,” Kent said. “To give you a perspective, I know that sounds like a lot of money, but if you go out in the marketplace to buy coverage for an individual, it’s not unusual for it to be $400 to $600 a month, and the University probably pays that much for employee coverage.”

The rate increase can be attributed to the high amount of traffic seen by SHS last year, he said. Insurance companies charge rates based on how often people use coverage.

Students looking to take advantage of the domestic partner benefits provided by the United Health Care plan must first prove that their significant other is their spousal equivalent, they must live together in the same residence and they must fulfill at least three of the following requirements: own a joint mortgage or a lease, designate the domestic partner as a beneficiary on their life insurance, have a will where the partner is listed as a beneficiary, jointly own a motor vehicle, or have a formal, legal domestic partner agreement.

Additional benefits include 90 percent coverage within the United Health Care network, as opposed to 80 percent provided last year, and a $10,000 maximum out-of-pocket expense.

To help alleviate wait times that may come with increased benefits, SHS has also implemented a new appointment-only policy.

Dr. Diane Zanto, senior director of SHS, said students will still be able to make appointments upon arrival. However, there is no guarantee that they will be seen right away – a change that Rocco Brudno, a junior majoring in English literature, said has limited wait times.

“I had a few shots that housing required me to have. I came in, I was a walk-in, mind you, so all this was very quick considering the usual suddenness concerned with walk-in made appointments, but they were friendly about the whole thing,” he said. “I saw the doctor, and they took care of me in no time flat.”