MASSPIRG advocates closing student health care loophole, ensuring quality affordable insurance for Bay State students

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Staff and student advocates from the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG) argued for quality and affordable student health insurance plans at a legislative hearing in Boston today. Health insurance reforms passed in 2006 created a loophole leaving many Bay State students with insurance plans that limit coverage and have much higher administrative and profit ratios than plans sold to most others in the state.

“The student loophole to the 2006 Health Care Law should be fully closed allowing students both the responsibility and benefits of our popular universal health care law,” testified MASSPIRG Legislative Director, Deirdre Cummings. “Student health plans are often poor quality and unfairly priced,” Cummings concluded before the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing concerning Senate Bill 609, sponsored by Worcester Senator Richard Moore.

According to a November report by the Massachusetts Division of Health Insurance and Policy, the majority of students in the state, seventy-three percent, are covered by their parents’ plans or a plan provided by an employer. The remaining twenty-seven percent, approximately 97,000 students, purchase insurance plans, known as Student Health Plans (SHP), through their school. 

Student Health Plans are loaded with coverage caps, service exclusions, and high out of pocket expenses which are practices all prohibited under the state minimum standard called “Minimum Creditable Coverage” (MCC) for most other policies sold in the state. The benefit caps leave students at risk of acquiring massive debt if they need to use their insurance. “Students deserve the same quality care as every other resident of Massachusetts,” said Ariel Callen, a MASSPIRG student leader from UMASS Boston. Callen argued the state could accomplish this goal by requiring all student health plans meet the minimum standards already in place for all other plans sold in the state.

MASSPIRG highlighted that not only do the Student Health Plans offer inadequate coverage, they are a rip off and should not be allowed to be sold in the state. According to a recent report prepared and released last month by the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy an average of 30 cents of every premium dollar for the Student Health Plans goes toward profits and administrative costs compared to 12 cents for plans sold to the general population. Students at state schools faced the greatest disparity with a whopping 45 cents of the insurance dollar going to profit and administrative costs. “It’s a rip-off, plain and simple,” said UMASS Boston student Marie Hedrick, who purchases her insurance through school. “There’s no reason I should have to purchase inferior quality health insurance that pads insurance company profits just because I am a student.”


MASS Student PIRG is a statewide student-funded, student-directed, non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy organization.

staff | TPIN

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