ISU changes provider

Abbie Moeller

Although premiums went up this fall for students insured through Iowa State, a switch in insurance providers is expected to save students $1 million over the next two years. The previous provider, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, announced a 30 percent raise in premiums for this fall and another 13 percent for next fall, said Jim Nelson, director of the Student Health Center. In response, Iowa State requested bids from other insurance providers to select the best option for the students’ financial and physical well-being, he said. “If we had stayed with Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the premiums would have been at the point where students could not afford [insurance] anymore,” Nelson said. He said it is very important for everyone to be covered by health insurance, and the provider switch will help make that possible. G.M. Southwest is the new provider, and the students will see only a 5 percent increase. This is considerably lower than the national average increase of 14 percent this fall, Nelson said. Most of the 5,000 ISU students who take advantage of the insurance provided by the university are graduate students and international students, who are required to have the coverage in the United States. As with every ISU purchase of goods and services, a bidding and selection process is used to find the best value and quality for students, said Nancy Brooks, assistant manager of purchasing. “We’re looking for responsiveness to the needs of the constituents, in this case, students,” said Brooks, who works with all of the products and services purchased by the university. The extension process includes contacting all the known providers and accepting bids from interested companies, she added. “By having a wide range of competition, we keep up with new technologies and market advancements,” Brooks said. The department contacted 36 companies about providing student insurance, and G.M. Southwest was one of six bids received that met the specifications. Brooks said the selection process was unusually short. The process usually takes several months, but short deadlines left ISU officials with little time to make choices. Both Brooks and Nelson agreed this did not affect the quality of the decision as sufficient time was spent to carefully evaluate the bids. “It is very important that we have high-quality health care for our students,” Nelson said. He said he realizes health care is not cheap, so it is important to select an insurance provider carefully. Students will see a few changes in the insurance coverage beyond the 5 percent increase in premiums, he said. The deductible will be doubled for single and family plans, as well as out-of-pocket maximum payments. Also, with the insurance, mental health patients will have outpatient visits limited to 20 per year. Students will save money despite these increases because they do not often have to rely on insurance.