In light of the College’s July 10 announcement that we will not continue to offer a Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) after July 31, you are invited to attend an information session taking place this week to assist you in finding and signing up for a healthcare plan compatible with your needs. Because Wheaton College’s SHIP ends July 31, students need to sign up for a new plan before that date in order to avoid a gap in medical coverage.
This information session took place Thursday, July 23 from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Chatlos Studio (in the lower level of the Billy Graham Center). Faculty and staff who work closely with students on these issues are also invited to attend. The meeting was livestreamed for students who are off campus:
My team and I recognize that the non-renewal of the SHIP places many students in the difficult position of choosing a new healthcare plan in a short window of time, and we are available to help. We encourage you to review the resources available on our Student Health Insurance website, to attend the information session this week, and to contact us with any questions you may have by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 630.752.7429.
Through conversations with concerned students, faculty, and staff, we know that many would appreciate more information about why the College is no longer offering a SHIP, and about the timing of this decision. While the focus of the information session will be on helping students secure health insurance, what follows will provide additional background.
Although the decision to drop Wheaton’s SHIP for the 2015-2016 school year was finalized after the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in July, due to circumstances beyond our control the College was already reviewing its future student healthcare coverage.
The federal government does not require colleges and universities to provide health insurance to students. Colleges take a variety of approaches, ranging from not requiring or offering insurance to requiring that all students be covered under a specific plan. Before 2010, Wheaton College offered an accident and illness plan, which largely covered emergency health care. In 2010, Wheaton College started offering the SHIP as a service with more robust coverage.
Over the last few years, the College has required that all students be covered by a parental, independent or College-sponsored insurance plan. Students who did not “waive out” by providing proof of coverage were automatically enrolled in the College’s SHIP. We found that many students and parents objected to the cost of this requirement, viewing it as a burden rather than a benefit.
Recently, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate has changed the landscape of health insurance across the US. The new federal requirements have caused the SHIP’s premium amounts to increase. We also found that student spouses and dependents utilized the SHIP at a higher rate than student premium dollars supported, thus driving up the costs for the full student population considerably.
In an attempt to stabilize these costs, early this spring the College’s Student Health Insurance Review Committee decided to no longer cover spouses and dependents of students starting in the fall of 2015. Campus announcements were sent out at that time letting students know of this change and directing them to resources for finding coverage. Based on feedback from international students, the committee also determined that international students would have the option to participate in other forms of health insurance, rather than be required to enroll in the College’s SHIP.
In the spring, we were told that there would not be any substantial changes to our plan. However, in June, Wheaton’s SHIP broker informed the College that in April they had been notified by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that they would be required to provide all enrollees with free access to all FDA-approved contraceptives, including the abortifacient products and services we object to. As we have shared previously, the College’s concern is with its own actions in facilitating the provision of morally objectionable products on its own plans, and with its right to constitutionally protected religious liberty. Gallagher’s unexpected notification did not allow the College adequate time to make alternate plans to provide student coverage in line with its institutional convictions.
On July 1, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit denied the College’s request for preliminary relief from the HHS mandate. A positive decision would have protected Wheaton’s SHIP until our lawsuit finally is resolved. After consulting with the Board of Trustees, and with legal counsel from The Becket Fund, the administration decided not to renew the SHIP for the upcoming year. Instead, we are providing information about options for students and parents to choose and purchase the coverage that best serves their financial and coverage needs.
We regret that we were not able to provide earlier notice of this significant change, which affects roughly a quarter of our student body. The College desires that every student have access to quality and affordable health care. Student Health Services (our campus medical facility) continues to offer affordable primary health care services to all enrolled students, regardless of their health care plan. The College is considering all of its options and will explore the possibility of again offering a SHIP in the future if circumstances allow us to do so in good conscience.
We are available to assist you in making a decision about coverage in the coming days. I hope you will take advantage of the information on our website, attend this week’s information session, and contact us with questions via email@example.com or 630.752.7429.
Vice President for Student Development