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Health insurance costs surge at University of Nebraska

June 4, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Students and staff enrolled in the University of Nebraska’s health care plans said they were blindsided by a nearly 20% surge in premium costs.

More than 5,000 students and faculty enrolled in the university’s United Healthcare plan will face the hike next year, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

The upsurge follows a 10% increase last year, putting a financial strain on students, who said they had no idea change was coming.

Individual plan costs are rising from $2,588 to $3,067, and family plans are increasing from $7,357 to $8,958.

International students and graduate students pursuing advanced degrees make up a majority of the people enrolled.

Samuel Eastman, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said the premium hikes are tough to absorb on the $25,000 stipend he receives through his work.

“I believe in the university, and it’s a point of personal pride to be here,” Eastman said. “But I do feel disregarded by the university on this in a way that’s hurtful.”

Students and faculty members said they were confused and alarmed when they received an email from the university last week informing them of the premium hikes and other health policy changes.

“We had no idea this was coming, faculty had no idea this change was coming,” said Shawn Ratcliff, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology, adding that the student health insurance plan is “exploitative.”

Melissa Lee, the university’s spokeswoman, said administrators have heard student and faculty concerns.

“It would be hard to find a college or university that is not struggling to manage skyrocketing health care costs,” Lee said.

The university just began offering United Healthcare in 2018. Before that, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska was the provider for 21 years. The switch was intended to save the university $11 million annually.

But negotiations with United Healthcare this year resulted in next year’s hike. The health insurance provider pointed to a large number of frequent users and high-cost claims that increased the cost to administer the plan.

“These are difficult to stomach,” Lee said of the increases. “To put it simply, we have had no good options on this issue for a number of years.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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