Illustration by Caetano Santos
Illustration by Caetano Santos

A couple weeks ago Santa Cruzans — students, faculty and staff of the UC Santa Cruz campus — turned out in force to protest vigorously against the recent $57 million discrepancy found in the UC Student Health Insurance Plan (UC SHIP) budget. UC SHIP is projecting this $57 million deficit, a mistake of enormous magnitude, due to lack of oversight and overall negligence.

UC SHIP originally hired Aon Hewitt, a consultant company and insurance broker, to help set the premium rates for those who opted into the insurance plan. In the end, these pre- mium rates were set too low to cover the costs of health care at the UC. On Jan. 11, Alliant Insurance Services, an actuarial firm hired by UC SHIP, released a report finding that the $57 million deficit was accrued over the 2010–13 plan years.

The UC chancellors will soon hear from an advisory committee and steering committee on their recommendations for the now glum future. The chancellors hope to have their future plans known and decided upon by June 1 of this year.

What we know now is that the UC has replaced Aon Hewitt, which is a good start. But now, the financial deficit problem is set in the laps of the UC administration. And what do they plan to do with it? You guessed it: increase premiums for students opting into UC SHIP — possibly by 20 percent year after year until the deficit is closed, or longer.

UC Santa Cruz, and indeed most if not all UC campuses, are speaking out against this ridiculous proposed solution. Whoever in the UC administration thinks it’s okay to fix Aon Hewitt and the administration’s problems on the backs of already financially-stunted stu- dents deserves to bear the brunt of the deficit themselves.

What is apparent is that health care should be affordable, regardless. The UCSC website states that the health insurance plan they offer is “affordable,” “convenient,” and “accessible.” But the numbers don’t add up.

The UC SHIP plan costs $501 per quarter, according to the UCSC Health Center website. Whether that is affordable or not is debatable, but increase that by 20 percent and you’re look- ing at paying $601.20 a quarter — and it only gets less and less affordable from there.

And as for quality, we are not getting what we deserve.

UC SHIP is self-funded, meaning they are exempt from laws like Pres. Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act that state that you cannot place a limit on the amount of money a patient costs the insurance company as of September 2010. This means UC SHIP may place limits on certain “liability” areas, or things the university insurance is responsible for covering financially and medically. Everybody who is opted into UC SHIP pays insurance, but some people

take out more than they pay for. UC SHIP caps those people — people with expensive treat- ments who may need insurance the most.

Also, there is a large list of “exclusions” that will not be covered by the insurance, including intercollegiate sports injuries. The Anthem In- surance Companies, Inc. policy states that they will not cover, “Treatment of Injury sustained while participating in, practicing or condition- ing for, or traveling in conjunction with, any intercollegiate sport, contest or competition, or any University-sponsored (including intra- mural) program in the martial arts, except as specifically allowed in plan description.”

Setting quality aside, the UC should not be allowed to move forward on increasing health insurance premiums to such a large extent in order to cover their own accumulated deficit.

Instead of turning to students’ pockets for the money to close the gap, why doesn’t the UC take legal action against Aon Hewitt, make health care affordable and leave students out of the equation?

We already struggle to pay off the premiums we are given now and the administration needs to see that. The protest a couple weeks ago was only the beginning of a long dialogue we need to have with the administration to let them know we are here, and that we will not be taken advantage of anymore.

Illustration by Christine Hipp
Illustration by Christine Hipp