USC planning to switch student health insurance providers

In an effort to increase efficiency and cater health care more toward students, USC has decided to switch its student health insurance plan from Anthem Blue Cross to Aetna Student Health insurance beginning in the fall.

In good health · Officials from the University Park Health Center re-evaluate student health insurance every five to six years. - Courtney Sandlin | Daily Trojan

All students at USC are required to have health insurance, but those who can show proof they have other insurance do not have to get insured through the university.

Student health insurance at USC is offered through a third-party health insurance provider, and officials at the University Park Health Center re-examine the university’s health insurance plan every five or six years, according to Cathy DeFrancesco, senior clinical administrator for the UPHC.

“The reason we wanted to shop the market was because it was time and we listened to our students’ feedback about Anthem,” DeFrancesco said. “Some students complained that they didn’t feel that the customer service was student-oriented.”

Aetna, Anthem and three other health insurance companies pitched their plans last month to a student health advisory committee comprised of health administration officials, graduate and undergraduate representatives and USC officials.

In the end, DeFrancesco said, Aetna’s health insurance plan stood out as the best option for students.

“One of the reasons I think they did so well in the [bidding] process is that all the customers are students, and that’s a big change from Anthem,” DeFrancesco said.

While Anthem is a large health provider for both individuals and groups — such as universities — Aetna Student Health serves only students and is more familiar with the ins and outs of a college, DeFrancesco said.

With the switch to Aetna, however, the health insurance rate will jump from $985 to $1040 yearly. This rate increase, however, also comes with an increase in the yearly coverage limit, which will grow from $500,000 under Anthem to $750,000 with Aetna.

Also new with Aetna, referrals to doctors outside USC will be electronic and immediate so students will not be left hanging if their paper referral doesn’t come through, DeFrancesco said.

“Right now, sometimes students will show up at the specialist’s office and the carrier does not have record of the referral in place,” she said.

Working with Aetna’s advanced information technology, the UPHC also hopes to institute an online waiver system to help students speed up the process of opting out of USC student health insurance.

“Getting the waiver done was a bit of a pain,” said Jessica Hsueh, a sophomore majoring in business administration. “It took a while for my parents to mail me all the paperwork, and I was afraid I wasn’t going to get my insurance waived on time.”

In choosing the new plan, administrators also considered health insurance for graduate students, which has been complicated in the past, according to Jenny Farah, the graduate student representative on the student health insurance advisory committee.

“A lot of the concerns that I got from students that were graduate student-specific were the costs of adding dependents to their plan, and if many of them have children and they are reliant on the school’s plan,” Farah said.

Based on input from graduate students and the committee, the new plan will allow dependents to join Aetna Student Health for 60 percent less than what Anthem had charged, DeFrancesco said.

Robert Ward, a junior majoring in computer science and business administration, said any change in health care efficiency will help both graduates and undergraduates.

“Health care is obviously a big issue right now, and if USC can do anything to make it easier for students to get access to medical services, it’s a good thing,” Ward said.