Author: Chris Mihin, CBC, Vice President & Managing Principal
Student health insurance plans have seen a lot of changes over the past decade. Tech advances, an increased awareness of mental and behavioral health needs and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 all affected student health needs and expectations. And that’s before we experienced a global pandemic.
Today, an average of 15% of a campus’s student population is enrolled in the college or university-provided Student Health Insurance Program (SHIP)1. That means 85% of students on your campus found a new option, stayed with their parent’s or guardian’s insurance or are uninsured. What is keeping them from signing up with your SHIP?
Technology, more diverse health needs and increased cost sensitivity all contributed to this shift. Now is the time to reevaluate your SHIP offerings for an evolving student health climate.
What Do Students Want from Your Student Health Plan?
There is clear data pointing to what students want and need out of a student health plan. A recent whitepaper from Anthem Student Advantage (ASA) outlined some of the most important areas:
1. Mental Health Coverage
One in four college students use mental health services each year and that number is likely to change in a world facing the uncertainty of a fluctuating pandemic. ASA found that 45% of students said mental health services were important to them and 35% said they wanted online or remote access to those services1. A Boston University’s School of Public Health report found a similarly high need, with two out of ten surveyed professors saying they provided mental or emotional support to students in 2020 and felt a toll on their mental health as a result2. In short, students need expanded mental and behavioral health coverage as part of their SHIP.
2. Pandemic-Related Coverage
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic changed health coverage for good. Students want to know if their SHIP will cover COVID-19 testing and/or vaccinations and expect education on navigating higher education during a pandemic. Your plan needs to be clear on what is covered, what is not and provide an educational tool on how students can keep themselves and your campus community safe.
3. A Mobile App
There is an app for everything these days and that should include your SHIP. Almost 40% of students surveyed by ASA said they want mobile access to their health coverage. This desire stems from the ease of use students find in all their consumer activities: shopping, take-out food, grocery delivery and ride service apps have students programmed to get information quickly and easily. When asked what they would want in a mobile health plan app, students named the following: easy access to customer service, ability to enroll or sign waivers, a library of healthcare resources and integration with their student health center’s or provider’s health records1.
4. Educational Tools
Most higher education students are navigating health insurance for the first time. Too often, they don’t understand how a SHIP can be more beneficial than their family’s plan. For example, two Ohio State students who stayed on their families’ insurance ended up traveling hundreds of miles to get care to avoid out-of-network fees3. If they signed up for their university SHIP, they could have avoided travel and received local care, reducing emotional and financial stress.
Adding an educational portal to your SHIP services can help students accurately evaluate their options, comparing other providers with your SHIP to understand the cost of their care. Educational portals also help students understand unfamiliar concepts like a PPO and deductibles.
5. Affordable Rates and Optional Add-Ons
Affordability rose as one of the most important factors for college students when selecting an insurance plan. With more first-generation and international students on campus and rising tuition costs, many students face tough financial decisions. Students heavily weigh cost when choosing their health insurance coverage and their SHIPs are not stacking up. ASA found students expected an average annual premium of $1,686 with a $548 deductible but the average Silver plan in 2020 had a $4,488 premium and $4,000 deductible1. The distance between expectation and reality can be staggering.
One way to curb costs is to offer options like dental and vision as add-ons. More than half of students said they would be willing to add dental coverage and 49% said they’d be willing to add vision1. With those coverages as add-on options, you can bring your standard premium down.
Working with a consultant is another way to bring down the price. A knowledgeable consultant will have proprietary relationships with providers, allowing them to identify cost-saving avenues and negotiate prices as they’re able.
How Can You Upgrade Your SHIP?
To increase enrollment, you first need to understand what your campus needs. Work with your carrier or a consultant to review claims and conduct surveys to identify what students use most. Once you know your needs, work with your provider to expand your network, especially your mental health coverage—the more options you have for your student health coverage, the better.
Next, leverage technology to educate your campus and make healthcare more accessible. A mobile app and educational library are simple ways to increase participation and expand knowledge.
Finally, work with a consultant like HORAN Campus Health to identify ways to increase access, lower premiums and integrate your student health services for a happier, healthier community. Our team is available to quickly guide you to the best options for your unique campus community: fill out a simple contact form or get in touch with Chris Mihin, Vice President and Managing Principal, HORAN Campus Health, at ChrisM@horanassoc.com or 513.702.3707.
1. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. (2021). Surveying college students about what they want from their student health plan [Whitepaper].