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Students: End UC health insurance cap

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POSTED January 30, 2013 8:21 p.m.

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — Students have called on the University of California to end caps on health care coverage that could leave them to foot the bill for their medical treatment.

Most UC campuses limit students' coverage to $400,000, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.

Students say that is not enough for illnesses such as cancer that require prolonged, expensive treatment. Thousands of students have joined a petition drive to end the caps.

Kenya Wheeler, 38, a student at the University of California, Berkeley's master's program in city planning, said he reached his limit after being diagnosed with cancer last year and had to hastily marry his girlfriend to get under her insurance plan and continue receiving coverage for his chemotherapy.

"I didn't know when I was diagnosed that I would be in for a battle to fight my cancer— and for my medical care," Wheeler told the UC regents at this month's meeting in San Francisco.

UC officials tell the newspaper they are considering their options, and want to know what it would cost to lift the cap.

The school does not make a profit on its student health care plan, but it can't afford to lose money either, said UC Chief Financial Officer Peter Taylor.

"It's a front-burner issue," he said.

The Affordable Care Act bars such limits, according to the Chronicle. But it does not apply to self-funded health care plans like UC's in which the university takes on the financial risk of medical costs as opposed to purchasing a group policy from a health insurance company.

An estimated 30 universities and systems covering roughly 300,000 students nationwide prefer such self-funded health plans, in part, because they offer lower taxes and let schools hold on to funds until they have to pay a claim, according to the Chronicle.

Corporations and other large businesses that provide self-funded plans are subject to the federal no-cap requirement, the newspaper reported.

UC's Jack Stobo, a physician who serves as senior vice president of health services, said he knew of only about five cases in which students had hit the lifetime cap and said those who need more insurance might qualify for Medi-Cal or could buy coverage through health care exchanges that are also a part of the federal health care law.

Still, he said the university needs to address the issue.

"If we have students, particularly of UC and in UC programs, who can't get the medical care they need and deserve, then shame on us," he said. "We need to fix that."


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