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University Student Health Insurance Plan Affordable for Some

Armen Hareyan's picture

Student Health Insurance

The health insurance plan that is available to students enrolled in the University of Hawai'i system offers coverage comparable to that of other providers at a lower price. A health insurance plan from Hawai'i Medical Service Association costs an average of $2,400 a year, while the comprehensive UH student insurance plan offers similar coverage for $1,607.76. The basic plan costs $1,117.56.

Glen Nochi, the special projects coordinator for University Health Services Manoa, and staff members at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa's Health Education Program work together to endorse the University Student Health Insurance Plan. For the past three years, the university has been working with HMSA to provide affordable health insurance to students.

This health insurance plan is offered system wide to students enrolled at any of the ten UH campuses, Chaminade University. The comprehensive plan covers medical, prescription drugs, vision, life insurance and accidental dismemberment or death insurance. Although the comprehensive plan offers more coverage for a higher price than the basic plan, both plans cover medical services. Some of those medical services include contraceptive supplies and mental health services.

Nochi said the UH plan is a unique college health insurance plan for two reasons. The first reason is the plan's lack of normal deductible rules, which Nochi explains are what individuals have to pay out-of-pocket before receiving services.

Along with no deductible, the plan has waived the pre-existing condition wait period. In most cases where an individual receives treatment for a medical condition, that same individual has to wait for a year to receive any benefits from his or her insurance company. The university plan waived that pre-existing condition wait period and covers the student from the first day he or she applies for a plan.

"It's very generous in that you get first day, first dollar coverage," added Nochi.

Nochi said that both the basic and comprehensive are similar to what people would get through employment.

Receiving Insurance from an Employer

UHM graduate Ryosuke Fukui has health insurance through his employer at Sawayaka Hawaii Inc., but while attending UHM he was covered by the UH plan.

Fukui is currently covered through his employer and he said that health insurance is more expensive now that he is not a student. He currently has health insurance with Kaiser Permanente but declared that the UH student plan was better and added, "I wish I still had it."

"One of the biggest ticket items might be a hospital stay and the comprehensive would cover 100 percent," said Nochi of the comprehensive plan. Nochi recommends getting the comprehensive plan over the basic plan because, in that situation, a basic plan would only cover 80 percent.

Life without Health Insurance

A one week stay at the hospital plus examinations and physician care would cost the individual thousands of dollars out-of-pocket without health insurance, Nochi said.

Architecture student Francis Ko can relate to paying hospital bills without the assistance of health insurance. He was hit by a car last October while on his way to his architecture studio on the Manoa campus. After the accident, he was taken to the emergency room where he was evaluated by a doctor. That visit alone cost Ko approximately $600.

Prior to his accident, Ko said health insurance was on the bottom of his list of priorities. "Now I wish I had health insurance at the time of my accident," Ko said.

Nochi described health insurance as a "living expense rather than a nice thing to have," and added that health insurance "is so important because it's sort of a safeguard to cover those catastrophic events."

"One reason why students may not graduate is because they have an illness or injury where they can no longer afford to pay for the expenses and they need to drop out of school," Nochi said.

Health Insurance with Financial Aid and Loans

Lorenzo Perillo, a graduate student at UHM, is living off financial aid and does not have health insurance.

"I was not financially in a position to purchase it in the beginning of the year and neither am I now," Perillo said.

He admits to being wary of how much emergency room costs, especially since Perillo's only form of transportation is his moped.

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Thao Nguyen, originally from California, transferred to UHM two years ago. She is relying on loans to cover her rent, food and transportation expenses, but her loans are not enough to purchase health insurance.

Although she was covered under the UH plan for her first year at UHM, she had to stop because she was not able to make a full payment.

"I think [the UH plan] would be better if students could make monthly payments. It's a little much to ask right at the beginning of the year," Nguyen said.

International Students

Although Nochi advises all students to get health insurance, it is required only for international students under UH policy.

For international student Masumi Kimura, having the University Student Health Insurance Plan is valuable. Kimura has been covered by the comprehensive UH health insurance plan since she started attending UHM.

Kimura says that she is happy with the comprehensive plan because the coverage is extensive and includes prescription drugs as well as vision services. She said that the plan was affordable in the past, but since the price recently increased, she says that it is too expensive now.

Kimura added, "Because it's so expensive, I cannot pay it at once" so she purchases the plan one semester at a time. However, she suggested that if the comprehensive plan included dental benefits, the price she currently pays for health insurance would be worth it.

"Dental services are really expensive without insurance and you usually have to buy a separate dental plan," she said.

Prerequisites for purchasing health insurance through UH

In order to be eligible for the UH health insurance plan, students must be enrolled at least part-time. This means that undergraduate students need to have a minimum of six credits and graduate students need to have a minimum of four credits during the fall and spring semesters; a minimum of three credits is required for the summer semester.

Students have the option of purchasing the university health insurance plan on an annual or semester-by-semester basis. Coverage is available for individual, two-party and family plans, with varied membership dues for each plan.

However, Nochi advises students not to purchse health insurance based only on price. "My advice would be to become educated and aware about coverage and price," Nochi said.

For more information about the University Student Health Insurance Plan, contact Glenn Nochi at 956-5862 or visit his office in room 313A of the Queen Lili'uokalani Student Services Center.

The UH comprehensive insurance plan includes the following medical benefits:

  • Hospital services such as room, care and an unlimited number of days in the intensive care unit.

  • Inpatient surgical services that include surgery and an anesthesiologist.

  • Outpatient laboratory and X-ray services.

  • Mental health services.

  • Maternity care and contraceptive supplies.

  • Diabetic supplies such as hypoglycemic agents and insulin.

  • Ambulance, allergy testing, chemotherapy, organ transplant, speech and physical therapy and repatriation services.