Friday, April 9, 2010

Cuomo finds fault with college health plans, widens probe

ALBANY -- College-sponsored health plans are often fraught with troubles that can put students at risk of not being covered for medical problems, but at the same time can provide big profits for insurers, an investigation by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has charged.

Cuomo said Thursday his review found students are often required to enter into costly health-insurance plans to attend college, but can be saddled with plans that offer low-coverage limits.

Some plans do not cover students for pre-existing conditions or even if they injured themselves in suicide attempts, he said. Some plans also cap a student's coverage at less than $25,000, Cuomo said, and others have caps of $700 for each illness. Yet students may have to pay up to $2,500 a year for such health-insurance policies.

At the same time, the investigation alleges that the insurers are paying out only a small fraction of what they receive in premiums from those they insure.

"Many of the sponsored health care plans looked at during our investigation leave students at risk while providing massive profits for insurance companies," Cuomo said in a statement.

The investigation, however, comes as the federal health care bill signed last month may resolve some of Cuomo's complaints. The law, for example, will allows parents to continue to cover their children until age 26 under their health care plan and also limit how much insurers keep from premiums.

Some experts said the students who often have to get college-sponsored insurance are older students, such as those seeking graduate or law degrees.

A report from the American College Health Association in 2007 found that 57 percent of schools require health insurance as a condition of enrollment. Cuomo estimated that the industry generates about $1 billion a year in revenue and covers about 1 million students.

Dr. James Turner, the association's president and director of student health services at the University of Virginia, said the group puts out guidelines that schools should follow that ensure students are offered affordable and adequate coverage.
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