The national debate over insurance coverage for contraceptives may have quieted down since Rick Santorum withdrew from the presidential race, but the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, otherwise known as ObamaCare) is still going to affect The New School. The university’s office of student services recently released a list of changes to the student health insurance plan for the 2012-2013 academic year, which will include complete coverage for preventive care, complete coverage for prescriptions, and the elimination of the $250 internal maximum for abortion. The new plan will also increase prescription drug benefits by almost a half-million dollars.
The office of student services said that the changes were in response to last month’s Department of Health and Human Services ruling for an accompanying rise in insurance premiums. Yet abortion is not mentioned anywhere in the ruling. Given the heated atmosphere of the healthcare debate, the Obama administration left the finer details about abortion coverage to the states.
The changes have been met with varying degrees of approval from the student body. Lang student Rhiannon Auriemma, a member of the Feminist Collective, applauded the university’s open protection of women’s rights, “especially because of the political climate and the recent attacks on reproductive health care.” A number of states have come down on abortion over the past few months; Oklahoma and Virginia have already exercised their right to restrict health insurance coverage for abortion.
Meanwhile, University Student Senate co-chair and V-Day organizer Katherine Towell, said that affordability makes access to contraceptive health care a reality.
“[It] acts as a benefit to our traditional undergraduates, as well as nontraditional and graduate students who often have higher out-of-pocket daily expenses to contend with,” she said. “Placing more than $250 of the burden on the institution is a huge relief for many.”
Although the federal government mandated some of the changes to the student policy, The New School took an active role in reshaping its student health insurance plan, according to Tracy Robin, assistant vice president for student health and support services. Robin, who helped draw up the proposed changes, said that only two of the reforms were required by the government’s new regulations.
“Getting rid of the $250 cap [on abortion-related services] wasn’t required by the reforms, but the regulations provided an opportunity,” said Robin. “It just felt like the right thing to do.”
When Robin took her position in SHSS, the cap had already been written into the student policy. Even though she failed to understand the logic behind a cap on abortions, other considerations kept her from taking action to eliminate it.
“There were a lot of factors to weigh,” Robin said, “such as the high cost of premiums.” Premiums may be on the rise for the New School’s student health plan, but the hike comes alongside the ability for young Americans to stay on the health care plan provided by their parents’ employer until age 26. According to Robin, roughly 4,000 students enroll in the university health plan every year, although that number fluctuates. Because the new insurance plan won’t be implemented until the fall, the effects of these new reforms remain to be seen.
Although disappointed in the reality of climbing rates, Towell expressed confidence in The New School’s ability to adapt reasonably. “I feel that The New School is one of the better equipped communities to face those [moral and financial] conversations if and when they arise,” she said.