September 23, 2017
Dear Graduate Students,
I'm writing to offer information from Director of University Insurance Services Jeanne Hebert, about the University's recent change in student health insurance plan providers, and to reassure students that our interest, first and foremost, is supporting the health and wellness our students. We look forward to the results of the recent Graduate Student Council survey to determine issues that we will work to address with the University's insurance office.
Andrew G. Campbell
Dean of the Graduate School
Sent on behalf of Jeanne Herbert, Director of University Insurance and Purchasing Services:
Dear Graduate Students,
I've heard from the president of the Graduate Student Council about some concerns related the University's student health insurance program for 2017-18. I'm writing to you directly because it is critically important that our students being covered through this plan are being served well, and are fully aware of their health care benefits. It's also clear that we need to strengthen our outreach and communications to ensure that students understand and take full advantage of the services being offered through the new program. We appreciate ongoing feedback, and look forward to the results of the survey that Graduate Student Council (GSC) has sent to students about the impact of the change.
In terms of background, the University assesses annually the health insurance coverage offered to students, balancing the cost of the plan and the comprehensive benefits provided. The University's goal is to ensure robust, accessible and cost-effective coverage. Decision-making is informed by engaging many stakeholders in the evaluation, including the Graduate School, Health Services, Campus Life, Financial Aid, CAPS, Alpert Medical School and others, to ensure that the most pressing needs of our students are met. We were fortunate to once again have the involvement of members of the GSC in the process.
This year, we determined that switching from our previous insurance carrier to UnitedHealthcare Student Resources/Gallagher Student Health would provide enhanced benefits to our students at lower than anticipated increased costs. In fact, had we stayed with our previous providers, student fees would have increased by approximately 12 percent as compared with the 1.9 percent that we realized, providing a per-student savings of more than $400.00. This higher premium would have been particularly burdensome for doctoral students with dependents.
The new plan also offers the following benefits that the prior plan did not, which you can also review in the attached comparison chart:
Mental Health and Wellness: We recognize that having access to mental health services in the local community is extremely important to Brown students. In addition to the UnitedHealthcare nationwide network of mental health providers, we have created a customized network of local providers who most frequently see students insured under the Brown University plan. To date, 29 providers have enrolled, and we will continue to expand this network. The list of currently-contracted providers can be viewed at www.gallagherstudent.com/brown, clicking on "Find a Doctor" and then the green button at the bottom of the page. Students receiving care from non-network providers can contact the Insurance Office (863-9481) to request that steps be taken to include them in the network.
Prescriptions: The University had used Express Scripts as the pharmacy benefit provider, which was no longer an option for 2017-18. As a result, we moved to the UnitedHealthcare Pharmacy Network. Prescription co-pays did not change, and we were able to offer prescription mail order service, which students have asked about having access to in the past.
That said, we recognize that students may experience changes with this transition. UnitedHealthcare Pharmacy Network works through OptumRx to develop their Pharmacy Drug List (PDL). The drug list identifies a three-tier copayment structure, and covered prescription drugs fall under one of the three tiers. It's possible that the prior plan categorized some prescription drugs in different tiers, and thus charged differently for them. Further, as with all pharmacy programs, certain prescriptions may be subject to limitations or require pre-authorization. The drug list is updated twice yearly, and the few changes made are generally due to a drug coming off patent, generic versions becoming available, or changes made by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). To download the most current prescription drug formulary, visit www.uhcsr.com, enter "Brown University", click on "Helpful Links" and choose "Rx Drug List" from the drop-down box. This document can be searched for specific prescriptions to determine the copay tier and if preauthorization is required, a prescription is excluded from coverage, supply limits exist or if the prescription needs to be obtained through the specialty pharmacy. Any specific questions can be directed to Senior Insurance Specialist Cheryl Moan by email or by calling 863-1703.
Chiropractic care: While the co-payment was increased from $10.00 to $15.00 to align it with other co-pays, the cap on chiropractic care visits was eliminated.
Travel immunizations: Travel immunizations are now covered.
Ambulance: Ambulance service is now covered at 80% of "Usual & Customary," not to exceed $50.00 per trip. There was previously no cap on the out-of-pocket expense to the student.
There was one benefit change that is not an enhancement. In the past plan, in addition to the $300.00 annual policy deductible, there was a $100.00 deductible that applied once per policy year for outpatient surgery or hospitalization. UnitedHealthcare considers this a co-payment, and the plan will apply the $100.00 co-pay to each outpatient surgery and hospitalization. When discussing these changes with the representatives from the Graduate Student Council with whom we met with prior to finalizing the plan, we agreed that fewer people would be impacted by this change for multiple surgeries or hospitalizations than would benefit from the other advantages offered by the plan.
I hope that this overview is helpful, and that you will share it with the graduate student community. We would welcome your suggestions for how to most effectively engage graduate students in any future review process, and to communicate more meaningfully should changes occur. I would also be happy to speak with graduate students about this plan.
Director, Insurance and Purchasing Services