Insurance rates high for married students

Married students on the student health plan face much higher health insurance costs than single students. Photo by Natalie Stoker.
Married students on the student health plan  experience much higher insurance costs. Photo by Natalie Stoker)

It would be easy to assume the total health plan costs for a married couple would be equal to the total health plan costs for two single students, but that is far from the truth.

According to the 2013–2014 BYU Health Plan handbook, the monthly cost of one married student’s health insurance is just over 160 percent that of a single student’s health insurance cost. In other words, when a single student gets married, their health insurance rate will jump from $296 per semester to $474 per semester. If the student adds a dependent or child to that plan, the cost jumps to over $1,600 per semester.

According to Aaron Larson, assistant director of BYU Health Services, the additional cost is to compensate for common costs, especially related to labor and delivery; and at BYU, married female students are more likely to become pregnant than are single students.

BYU Health Services still receives multiple phone calls each week, however, inquiring about the issue.

“Some people are really sensitive to cost, and they are very concerned to the point of being angry sometimes,” Larson said. “But when you explain (the reasons) to them and slow down, everyone seems to get it. It’s not rocket science; it’s just insurance.”

According to Larson, occasionally a married male student, whose wife is not on the health plan, will call in wondering why he still has to pay higher rates when BYU Health Services will not be paying for any labor-related costs for his wife. Due to federal Title IX regulations, BYU cannot make a distinction between male and female students within the plan.

“BYU is an educational institution and has to abide by title IX rules and regulations,” Larson said. “That prohibits us from gender discrimination within the confines of the plan; ironically, we can differentiate by marital status but not by gender.”

While some private health plans currently treat male and female individuals differently and men can get lower rates than women, Affordable Care Act regulations, coming into effect next year, will prohibit gender discrimination when it comes to insurance risk ratings.

“From our experience, the plan is a good fit for students on campus,” Larson said. “It varies anywhere between 10,000 and 14,000 students on the plan at any given time. So trying to make a one-size-fits-all (option) is difficult, but we feel like we’ve managed it as best as we can.”

Despite the higher costs for married students, many still say BYU Health Insurance is the right choice for them.

“BYU was the best value for the coverage,” said Steven Wilson, a student in his last year of the Masters of Accounting program. “The ultimate factor for me, though, was ease. I just had to click a button and I had insurance.”

For Aaron Terry, a junior studying mechanical engineering, the convenience of having access to the BYU Student Health Center had a large impact on his decision.

“I haven’t really shopped around; I’ve just done what’s most convenient,” Terry said. “And going to the BYU Health Center is really convenient.”

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