Lisa Falta / The Daily Gamecock

USC announces expanded health insurance requirements for students

A wide swath of students at USC's Columbia campus will be required to have health insurance as a condition of enrollment starting in the upcoming fall semester.

A Monday email from Student Health Services announcing the change to students said that all undergraduate and graduate students registered for six or more credit hours will have to meet new health insurance requirements. This threshold includes all full-time students, which are defined as students taking 12 credit hours or more, and many part-time students.

This is an expansion of previous health insurance requirements, according to Marjorie Duffie, director of public relations and marketing for Student Health Services. The program was approved by university administrators in 2017 and began with a requirement for incoming freshman during the 2017-2018 school year, Duffie said.

The new requirement mandates that these students pay for a university-sponsored health insurance plan or provide proof of "adequate health insurance coverage." 

International students, students with a graduate assistantship and School of Medicine students taking one credit hour or more are also subject to the requirement, the email said.

The university-sponsored plan, provided by BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, has an annual premium of $2,047. That amounts to an $869 charge on student's fall tuition bill and a $1,168 charge on their spring tuition bill if they purchase the policy. It will provide students access to outside providers in South Carolina as well "reduced costs in Student Health Services." It will have no deductible for Student Health Services offerings, a $750 deductible for in-network services and a $1,500 deductible for out-of-network services.

A university website explaining the requirement says students should contact the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships to "request additional funds" if they have concerns about paying for the policy.

"The primary purpose of student health insurance is to keep students healthy and in school so they can graduate and realize their life and career goals," the same website said. 

Students who want to opt out of the university-sponsored plan are encouraged to fill out a waiver by July 26 in order to avoid a charge on their fall tuition bill. Students who get their waiver approved after that will see the charge removed from their bill. Students can have their own plans or be dependents on a family member's plan.

Sept. 15 is the final deadline to opt out with a waiver.

A university website explaining the requirement says "adequate" coverage must:

  • "Be effective as of August 1 for the fall term or January 1 for the spring term.
  • Extend through the semester you've waived out for, including breaks and holidays.
  • Allow you to receive services in South Carolina. 
  • Give you unlimited aggregate maximum benefit per policy year per covered person.
  • Not have a pre-existing condition limitation.
  • Have an out-of-pocket limit per policy year that does not exceed $6,350 per individual and $15,000 per family."

Those that want to opt out must complete a new waiver every semester.

Students who don't fall into the mandatory categories have the option to purchase a voluntary, university-sponsored plan.

Among nearby schools, the University of Florida, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University have similar requirements, according to their respective websites.

Clemson University and University of Georgia have a requirement for a smaller pool of students, according to their websites.

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