Students “Tech” care of themselves with SHIP

Photo by Sho Kitamura

As access to healthcare continues to be a hot-button issue on the national stage, colleges and universities nationwide offer their students access to medical treatment and health insurance through subsidized plans. 

At Tech, Stamps Health Center offers the Student Health Insurance Program, or SHIP. 

Tech’s SHIP offers health insurance to enrolled undergraduate and graduate students as well as their eligible dependents that do not already have insurance. 

The plan includes comprehensive benefits, including medical, dental, vision, prescription and worldwide travel, provided by United Healthcare
Student Resources.

Under current Institute and University System of Georgia (USG) Board of Regents standards, having health insurance is mandatory only for
select groups of students. 

Students holding an F or J visa and graduate students who receive a tuition waiver from USG or are pursuing a chemical and biomolecular engineering, biomedical engineering or applied physiology degree are required to have health insurance.

However, even if a student falls into any of those categories, it is not necessary to enroll in SHIP. Students who are already covered by an existing policy — such as through their parent, family or employer-sponsored plan — can opt out of SHIP by filling out a waiver online during the open enrollment/waiver period.

Likewise, students who wish to enroll in SHIP may do so voluntarily during the open enrollment/waiver period, as long as they are enrolled in at least four
credit hours. 

Voluntary enrollment in the fall has two options: students may enroll annually to cover the whole policy year with one enrollment, or enroll for the fall and re-enroll for the spring and summer during the spring re-enrollment period in December and January.

Students who fall into a mandatory group must enroll in SHIP twice a year (in fall and in spring), and those who wish to waive enrollment must also waive twice a year. Substitute plans must be Affordable Care Act compliant.

Third-year CS Mridhula Maheswaran explained that SHIP was her only choice as an
international student. 

“I was coming from India, was underage, and didn’t really have family here so it was too
much of a hassle,”
Maheswaran said.

When Maheswaran ended up in the emergency room several months ago, SHIP covered most of her costs, including
ambulance fees. 

“There wasn’t much for me to do though, I just got a bill from the insurance later,”
Maheswaran said.

Maheswaran said that one of the major advantages SHIP provided over off-campus alternatives was the convenience of paying through tuition. 

“I personally don’t have a bad experience with it and paying for it with my tuition is simple for my parents,” Maheswaran said.

Billing & Insurance Coordinator for Stamps Health Services Jennifer White said in a phone call that only those in the mandatory group can pay for SHIP with their tuition. 

“Students [in the mandatory group] are charged on tuition and they pay for the insurance through the bursar’s office, who sends the information to United Healthcare,” White said.

Those in the voluntary group must pay directly to United Healthcare Student Resources, who provides voluntary student enrollment information to Stamps Health Services and the Institute.

Maheswaran warned, however, that coverage can vary per incident, and billing can be difficult during the summer. 

“For me, it was the end of the semester, and I was leaving for India
and didn’t get mail,”
Maheswaran said.

Maheswaran recounted the experience her friend had with an appendix removal, which wasn’t a covered procedure and amounted to a high price point. 

She said that while she “should put more effort into knowing this stuff [insurance coverage],” she does not need to know everything if she cannot change it anyway.

White said that in her view, out of state students should also strongly consider enrolling in SHIP. 

“Say, for example, some insurance from California doesn’t cover outside of that state, so it would only cover emergency room visits … If a student needs to go to the orthopedist for a cast … that would be 100% out of pocket,” White said.

The policy year begins in August and continues for one academic year. The 2022-23 open enrollment/waiver period began on July 25, 2022 and closes
on Sept. 26, 2022.

Students who fall under the mandatory group categorization will pay $1,175.79 for coverage through Dec. 31, 2022 and then $1,629.21 for coverage from Jan. 1 to July 31, 2023.

Students in the voluntary group may enroll annually for $3,878.00, or pay $1,625.57 for coverage through
 Dec. 31, 2022 and then $2,252.43 for coverage from Jan. 1 to July 31, 2023.

Figures for both groups increase as students include dependents to cover in their plan, whether that be solely a spouse, solely children or all dependents (all inclusive).

Having access to healthcare is a universal need and students at the Institute are no different. 

More information about health coverage and SHIP can be found online at health.gatech.edu.