Chris Hondros/Getty Images
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo says some college insurance plans don't make the grade.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo says some college insurance plans don't make the grade. Chris Hondros/Getty Images
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo schooled 300 institutions of higher learning on their own student health insurance plans in a letter this week. They didn't get good marks.
His office has been investigating firms that make money on students and has found school-sponsored health insurance plans are bringing in $1 billion a year. And the students covered by some of the plans aren't getting as much for their money as Cuomo thinks they should.
His letter warns colleges and universities about the problem, and also lets them know he's got his eye on them. The New York Times reports that Cuomo's office has asserted that it has authority over any school a New York student attends — not just those within the Empire State.
Among the potentially unscrupulous practices Cuomo highlighted:
- Coverage limits can be so low the benefits — sometimes only $1,000 — and wouldn't cover a serious illness or injury.
- Treatment for common college ailments, such as drunken accidents, is often excluded.
- And, the universities, which sometimes require students to enroll in such plans, may be receiving contributions from the firms.
The college-affiliated plans also pay out far less than they take in, in part because the benefits are so restrictive. The federal health legislation requires insurers to spend 80 percent of their revenues on medical expenses, but some insurers Cuomo subpoenaed were apparently only paying out 30 percent.
Cuomo's alma mater, Fordham University in New York, offers a "Student Accident and Sickness Insurance Plan," starting at $1,620 a year. The benefits are brokered by Collegiate Insurance Resources. Students are automatically enrolled in accident coverage, and can choose whether to buy "sickness" coverage from the same insurer.
But, that policy doesn't include important things like "basic hospital" care, and maxes out at $2,500 in payments. A more comprehensive — and costly — add-on boosts that threshold to $100,000. The policy doesn't cover treatment for injuries related to "intercollegiate sports" or attempted suicides, among other restrictions.
In many cases, students already have health coverage when they matriculate, either independently or through their parents. The new federal health law could mean even more will be covered by their families: Starting next year young adults up to age 26 will be allowed to remain on their family's insurance plans.
Weaver is a reporter at Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit news service.