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College to adopt new health insurance plan

This coming school year, Grinnell students who opt to obtain insurance through the school will be covered under United Health Care instead of Consolidated Health Plans, the College’s previous provider. Despite the switch to a new health care company, there are no stark differences in the coverage between the old and new health care plans.

“There isn’t a difference between last year’s coverage and this year’s coverage,” said Jim Mulholland, director of compensation and risk management. “We basically ask[ed] for the same benefits.” 

While the two health care plans are virtually identical, administrators made the decision to switch to United Health Care to best reflect the interests of students. 

The transforming insurance landscape played a hand in the choosing the health care plan. Some insurance companies that used to specialize in collegiate health care no longer exist. With less diverse options available, United Health Care, as one of the largest collegiate health care providers, stood out as the best fit for students at Grinnell.   

No benefits of the previous insurance were lost in this transition. According to Mulholland, Grinnell students will still receive the “Platinum Plan,” the same health care coverage that was used in previous years. 

Yet there are small differences between the two plans, including how students access their health care, the structure and the parties involved.   

The plan under United Health Care is organized differently from that of Consolidated Health Plans. The previous health care plan utilized a third-party administrator to manage the insurance claims. United Health Care does not have a third-party administrator and instead manages the claims itself, making the process more direct.   

“This coverage was chosen because it’s an insurance company that is dealing with the claims and is administering the plan,” Mulholland said. “We wanted to eliminate that [third party].” 

The College has already begun to see benefits from the switch. In the previous plans, there were only two to three students enrolled prior to August 24, the enrollment deadline. With this plan, there were over 160 students who had already enrolled in the plan before August 24. This change in structure signifies that students are enrolling in a more timely manner, meaning they are able to access their health care sooner. 

The new student health insurance plan makes health care more accessible, thereby giving students many benefits that were not available through the previous health care plan. In the past,  students were not able to pre-enroll unless they pre-purchased insurance from the company itself, an issue that the College wanted to resolve. 

Students’ inability to pre-enroll is problematic for various reasons. If a student had an urgent medical issue before their health care plan went into effect, they would not be covered. 

While the new health care plan does cost more than the previous plan, the price of the previous plan would have eventually risen. 

“The cost of the plan would have increased regardless of if we stayed on the old plan or the new plan,” said Mary Greiner, assistant vice president of human resources.

College officials examine and evaluate programs at Grinnell, including the health care programs for both students and employees, on an annual basis. 

“It’s our general practice to evaluate our benefit programs and ensure that the quality cost and efficiency of the programs are as effective as possible,” Greiner said. 

Greiner feels confident in the College’s decision to utilize the plans under United Health Care. 

“They’re very reputable in this space, and so they do provide coverage to approximately 400 other colleges and universities, so it’s something they’re an expert in for providing this kind of coverage.”

Students must either waive or accept the school provided health insurance by Aug. 29. Jeff Li.
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