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Student health plans not exempt from reform law

Under a new HHS proposed rule, student health plans can't impose lifetime coverage limits, suddenly drop students from enrollment because of an unintentional application error or discriminate against pre-existing conditions, reports The Hill’s Healthwatch.

Student health plans were initially exempted from many of the health reform law requirements because they defined themselves as mini-med plans. However, this new rule ends any speculation that insurers offering student health plans to the nation's colleges and universities would be permanently exempted from the new law, according to the Wall Street Journal.

HHS officials say they tried to take a middle course when developing the proposed rule, applying new requirements on plans but also easing some rules that could force the plans out of existence, the National Underwriter reports. About three million college students are covered by these health plans, which are offered by all major insurance companies, notes the WSJ.

Student plans now must provide at least $100,000 in annual coverage for plan years starting before Sept. 23, 2012, and plans starting after that date must comply with healthcare reform's annual limit restrictions, notes Healthwatch. HHS said student health plans currently have a median annual limit of $50,000 and an average annual premium of $850.

They also will be subject to the new, stricter medical-loss requirements. Beginning in 2012, school-sponsored insurance plans will have to devote 80 percent of the revenue they collect from premiums toward medical care rather than administrative costs, the WSJ reports.

Some policy experts responded to the rule with concern. Steve Bloom, who handles government relations for the American Council on Education, told the WSJ it might compel insurers to raise premiums. "I am worried that insurers might use these rules as a pretext to inappropriately raise premiums."

To learn more:
- read The Hill’s Healthwatch story
- see the National Underwriter article
- view the Wall Street Journal piece

Related Articles:
Mini-med plans must notify customers of limited benefits
SPOTLIGHT: HHS to address medical-loss ratio and 'mini-med' plans
New York AG slams 'inferior' student health plans as new PPO launches in Pennsylvania

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