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Int...l Students Could Pay More Next Year For Health Insurance

By Diana Jue
STAFF REPORTER

A proposal by the Massachusetts Qualified Student Health Insurance Program (QSHIP) to halt waivers for insurance policies from carriers based outside the United States could potentially require some international MIT students to buy the MIT Student Extended Insurance plan, currently priced at $1,440 a year, during the 2006-2007 academic year.

266 graduate and 79 undergraduate international students, or 13 percent of the 2,674 international MIT students, waived the extended plan during the 2005-2006 academic year, according to Maryann Wattendorf, Communications Manager for MIT Health Plans, and Sara Fuschetto, MIT Health Plans Enrollment Administrator.

“Our main concern is that financial aid should be looked at accordingly,” said Anjani Trivedi ’08, President of the International Students Association. “It’s the fairest thing to do because no longer does anyone have a choice.” Financial aid is not currently provided to cover the cost of the Student Extended Insurance Plan because the Financial Aid Office expects parents to cover this expense regardless of enrollment at MIT, according to its Web site.

The change was included in a Proposed Regulation on March 3 by the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, a department of the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services, after determining that foreign-based coverage was deemed “not comparable to [US] coverage” as outlined by QSHIP.

These changes are designed to ensure that students have adequate health care. Wattendorf and Fuschetto said that MIT Health Plans researches all insurance policies submitted via the waiver system to see whether they meet current QSHIP requirements, but has seen situations where students’ home insurance coverage “proves to be inadequate” or “does not work well for them in the Boston/Cambridge area.”

MIT Health Plans is following the decision about the changes closely and will “directly communicate with affected students as soon as we hear a decision from the state,” said Wattendorf. However, since the changes are not yet finalized, MIT Health Plans has not yet informed all of the international students of the possible change. Those it has communicated with have been advised to check whether their current insurance carriers are US-based.

Another concern for international students is their option for health coverage if they choose to study abroad, says Rabeel H. Warraich ’08, who will be studying at Oxford next year. He would prefer to purchase a health plan that’s based in England, but the proposed changes may require him to purchase MIT’s Extended Student plan that only provides emergency coverage abroad. “The insurance would be worthless,” he said. “The state is not trying to facilitate the students.”

“I sort of feel trapped because there’s no way around it. Now that the state has made [US-based health insurance] mandatory, I have no choice,” says Warraich. “It’s a basic thing; if a person is not living here, why should he or she have to pay for“ health insurance that’s based here?

The final decision for the plan will be made by the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Health Care Finance and Policy on an unreleased date. If the changes are approved, they could go into affect as early as August 1, 2006.