Health insurance

<p>Some time ago, I e-mailed Caltech a question about health insurance, but have received no reply. I'm hoping someone here can answer and save me a long distance call.</p>

<p>Is the mandatory health insurance paid freshman year a one-time fee, or is there a charge every year? If every year, does anyone know why the student fees are nearly $2,000 more for incoming freshman than for other students?</p>

<p>Ellen, I was curious too and found the following on the Caltech website:</p>


<p>Are we going to be charged for the Caltech student health insurance plan?</p>

<p>Caltech's Health Insurance Plan is mandatory and is provided to all students. Beginning in fall 2006, with the entering freshman class, the premium for Caltech's Health Insurance Plan will be included in the Student Services Fee. For undergraduates who enrolled prior to fall 2006 and all graduate students, the Student Services Fee will not include the cost of the premium." So it looks like we'll be paying the extra fee for health insurance every year.</p>

<p>Does that mean that incoming freshman are paying for health insurance (which my son does not need) while current students get the same insurance for free? Or do current students pay for it through some other mechanism?</p>

<p>It really does look to me like only incoming freshman are paying the premium but everyone has health insurance but doesn't have to pay..that really doesn't feel right. My son has health insurance too so really doesn't need Caltech's health insurance. I think I'll send an email to Caltech as well and see if I can get an explanation too.</p>

<p>I went back to look at the site where I found the info <a href=""&gt;;/a> </p>

<p>and also found the following: "The cost of health insurance will no longer be included in financial aid calculations for new students (this does not apply to continuing students). In cases of financial hardship, the Financial Aid Office will offer loans to cover the cost of health insurance."</p>

<p>This feels really unfair - the health insurance I have for my son is less expensive than Caltech's but we can't opt out of Caltech's plan..and the premium isn't included in the financial aid calculation?? But they'll offer us a loan for something we don't need? Grrr.</p>

<p>I heard something about Caltech changing the health plan for the incoming class, but I can't remember what. You may want to start here if you haven't already been to the Health Center's web site:
<a href=""&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>I've never heard of anyone dropping the core Caltech health plan, so don't be surprised if you can't escape it. In its defense, getting things done through Caltech is generally very fast because they have good connections with Pasadena-area specialists. This means less downtime... and as any Techer will tell you, taking extensions for any reason is a good way to get terminally behind.</p>

<p>The short story is that they are imposing this extra mandatory health insurance fee on new students only because if they tried to impose it on current students, there would be too much of an uproar. By leaving old students on the old system, they lessen the incentive of current students and their parents to complain while the new scheme is being debated. By the time the new students get here, it's a done deal and they have no say in it. (Also, they aren't breaking an implicit quasi-promise to current students that the insurance policy would be what it was when they came, but I think that's a less significant factor.)</p>

<p>The health insurance Caltech provides seems inefficient, in that many people can get health insurance for less money that works just as well for them. If this weren't so, there would be no need to make the Caltech health insurance mandatory. By making it mandatory, Caltech generates a revenue stream from a captive market -- life is easy if you can just force your customers to buy (according to a policy in which they had no say). This is driven by the budget crunch.</p>

<p>Just in case it isn't clear, I think this policy is dastardly. Making people buy something they don't want and would prefer to buy elsewhere, without asking them, is both inefficient and dishonorable. Caltech should be ashamed of itself and of the administrators who institute this nonsense.</p>

<p>(Yes, that was really me.)</p>

<p>Ben, does Caltech actually make money on the health insurance? I thought it was all through an outside company and the fees (plus, possibly more in the form of a subsidy) went straight to them.</p>

<p>Just a quick correction to something I posted earlier after finding as statement on Caltech website that said the health insurance for incoming freshmen was not included in the financial aid offer. Another part of the website says " I have applied for financial aid in 2006-07. How will the cost of student health
insurance be addressed? The Health insurance premium is considered part of the student fees."<br>
So I'm going to trust that its covered and not worry (right now) on how to come up with the extra money.</p>

<p>Studying the numbers, I find that incoming freshman will pay $1821 more in fees than current students. Presumably that's for health insurance. But if a student enrolls a spouse or same-sex partner in the health insurance plan, the additional cost is only $1430. So, students, pair up and save!</p>

<p>Joe, Caltech probably doesn't make money on the insurance. However, Caltech is, essentially, requiring healthy freshmen to subsidize health insurance for everyone else. The average undergrad will incur substantially lower health costs than the average faculty or staff member plus family. As noted above, the cost of covering a spouse is less than the fee for an incoming frosh. Caltech charges $670 to add children to the plan. That cost is comparable to what many of us are paying right now to cover our children. That's why we are objecting to paying $1821, often for less coverage than our children get right now for 1/3 of the cost.</p>

<p>I also found it was a lot cheaper to keep S covered under my plan. With proof of insurance, we saved some $1000. Now he's with Caltech insurance. I heard there were problems with finding care thru various HMOs and PPOs. Caltech is very near Huntington H, with strong staff.</p>

<p>Let's be careful before we jump to conclusions. I'm pretty sure that the faculty/staff health plans are through Blue Cross/Kaiser Permanente, while the student health plans are Chickering/Aetna. I believe they're two completely different plans, so if there's any subsidizing going on (which I doubt, actually) it's happening on Caltech's end, not because "healthy freshmen" are part of the same insurance pool as doddering professors emeritus. :-)</p>

<p>The healthy freshmen may well be subsidizing stressed out grad students nearing 30, but I don't think any worse than that.</p>

<p>Joe, thanks for letting us know about the different plans. That does make me feel somewhat better, although I'm still puzzled how health insurance can cost so much for young adults, who are usually fairly healthy. </p>

<p>Caltech said they imposed the extra fee because they were losing money on health insurance. "Caltech has long subsidized many essential expenses--among them parking, health insurance, and various services--with funds from its General Budget. And it will continue to do so, albeit at a somewhat lower rate." The compulsory nature of the insurance doesn't make sense. If I were losing money, I'd be glad to have people take their business elsewhere. Instead of mandatory insurance, Caltech could offer optional health coverage to students who do not have insurance, as do many other colleges.</p>

<p>BTW, graduate students don't have to pay for health insurance. "For undergraduates who enrolled prior to fall 2006 and all graduate students, the Student Services Fee will not include the cost of the premium." So who is paying fees for spouses/partners and children? My impression was that marriage is rare among undergraduates and children are even rarer. Is that incorrect?</p>

<p>P.S. Why would a college subsidize parking if they have to have a lottery to determine who will win sought-after spaces? Why not raise the rates until the demand equals the supply?</p>

<p>I'm surprised to hear that it may not be covered by financial aid. When they were discussing changes to the health care policies last year, the two main arguments in favor of keeping it mandatory were 1) so that financial aid could cover it (federal financial aid can't cover anything that isn't mandatory) and 2) to keep it affordable for all students.</p>

<p>Furthermore, while many students (including me) are covered by their parents plans, many from out of state have trouble finding doctors which take their parent's insurance here. I was covered under what we thought was a very good plan back home (it's an HMO). Over the past year, I've had to see a number of doctors out here, and every single time I've presented both insurance cards and been told that only the Caltech insurance was accepted.</p>

<p>EllenF, because the university is growing so quickly (in staff, not students), they have to build a new parking structure every few years. In order to have the parking system self-sustain, parking permits would have to be on the order of a couple thousand dollars yearly. This is unreasonable to expect students and staff (most of whom make $10 an hour) to pay (however, I agree that the rates for professors should be much higher than they are currently).</p>

<p>Unreasonable to expect students to pay for parking? (I'm leaving staff out of this discussion). I could jump into a discussion about global warming, this country's dependence on oil and the need to find alternatives to cars. & then I think of how I panicked over the thought that perhaps the student health insurance might not be covered by financial aid..(our family's efc = if the health insurance is not covered then what I'm expected to pay for Caltech is going to go from next to nothing to nearly $2000 for something my son doesnt' truly need??)..sorry, but if a student can afford a car they should be able to afford parking even if it costs them a couple thousand a year. Looking at my son's financial aid package, I do think the health insurance is covered..but I truly had a moment of panic wondering where we'd come up with the extra money.</p>

<p>Maybe 25% (if that) of the Caltech undergraduate student body has a car, which means that when cars of undergrads do leave campus, they've generally got several people in them. I never had a car at Caltech but was able to do things off campus regularly because my friends were nice enough to drive (generally we'd have 4 or 5 people in each car). It really is a benefit to the whole student body--particularly given that Pasadena is not a college town, and the LA area public transportation system isn't exactly great--not just the student with the car, so I have no problem at all with the Institute subsidizing parking.</p>

<p>In terms of need-based financial aid, Caltech was pretty much universally the most generous among those people I knew. I don't think that has changed... to those worried about the aid, I'd be curious how your MIT offer compared. Many MIT offers I've been aware of, including my own, were about $10,000 worse per year for the family than the same student's Caltech offer.</p>

<p>If you have concerns about what's covered by financial aid, you might want to call the financial aid office and ask them. In my experience, they've been quite willing to answer questions. They're not usually especially busy, so you probably won't have to wait on hold. Their phone number is (626) 395-6280.</p>

<p>This is a point worth mentioning: the Caltech bureaucracy (by which I mean the offices of the registrar, bursar, financial aid, etc.) is usually fairly easy to deal with. My parents (who both went to state schools) always have a hard time believing me when I tell them that the financial aid office and the registrar's office tend to not be very strict about deadlines and such or that I won't have to stand in line for an hour to pay my bill.</p>

<p>There seems to be quite a few misconceptions here... some are because of intervening time, some due to bad information... I'll try to straighten up what I can.</p>

<p>As a quick aside, the Town Hall site was meant for students, and some of the information there is "spun." Also, some of it was still up in the air. Details about health care weren't confirmed until March, but the site went up in January.</p>

<p>Health Insurance:
Across the board, Caltech (the same as everyone else), is facing rising fees and premiums for health insurance. Recently, there was a discussion about retiree (lifetime) benefits among the faculty concerning retired faculty and staff. This was a PPO/HMO discussion covering the various plans that Caltech offers.</p>

<p>For students, there is only Chickering/Aetna. As far as I am told (last week), a) this will be covered by financial aid... this is one of the reasons why 'no waiver' is a good thing, as if everyone has to pay, then it's considered part of the cost of attending, therefore financial aid can cover it and b) students remain the primary provider (this has to do with a 2001 ('02?) protest where Caltech tried to decrease the cost to itself from paying Health Care but changed the primary provider to be parents, which made a lot of people very angry)</p>

In previous years (available from the Caltech Master Plan), parking usage has risen as a steady clip (10%?) each year. With these new fees, growth is flat. Unfortunately, there have been some severe negative repurcussions that I can't really touch on. I believe at this point, anyone who wants to get a parking permit can. Also, there are no longer any plans (currently) to build another parking structure anytime soon. I can't really say anything else on the subject, but rest assued that if a student wants to pay for a permit, they'll let the student. There are plenty of spaces available. Short aside: students were never the issue with the people's problems with the fee, low-wage staff /is/.</p>

<p>Financial Aid/Tuition for Incoming Frosh:
The explanations I've received is not that the frosh are subsidizing cheap health care for the rest of the students. Instead, the administration, when faced with student protests over gradual, consistant, over-inflation tuition hikes, decided to take the pain in one go and make a giant hike one year. You are the new status quo, but who among the students would protest for people that weren't here when the decision was made? It's a shame, but that's my take on the way it was.</p>

<p>Finally, oaklandmom, I don't know if you heard, but estimated summer contribution is going way up this year as well. I don't know if rising frosh summer is covered, but each summer, each student is expected to make $1500 and give it to the school. If this money is not earned, then you will receive more loans/work-study during the year. This is part of the minimum expected contribution from full financial aid recipients. This is up from $3250 from last year. It is a signficant increase. If you can't do work-study (and some can't do much, because of the workload here) you'll have up to $21k in loans, as opposed to $13k.</p>