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Duke switches to BCBSNC as SMIP provider

After just three years with its current Student Medical Insurance Plan provider, Duke will revive its partnership this Fall with BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, which served as the provider for 30 years before a change in 2008.

BCBSNC, which will replace UnitedHealthcare Student Resources, was selected after reviewing a number of providers in order to achieve cost savings, said Jean Hanson, administrative director of Student Health. The company will provide insurance policies for students who do not submit a waiver demonstrating that they already have adequate private medical insurance.

The Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee began a formal review of SMIP providers about four months ago, Hanson said. The committee was led by Dr. Bill Purdy, executive director of Student Health, and consisted of administrators from both Student Health and Counseling and Psychological Services as well as faculty, staff and students.

“There were clear signs in the health care marketplace that we could improve coverage and save money for students covered by the current SMIP,” Purdy said. “We received bids from several well known and respected health insurers. After interviewing the top three and closely looking at the packages they offered, the [committee] picked BCBSNC. I am excited about the expanded provider network and quality customer service.”

Hanson said Student Health compares the prices offered by all different SMIP providers every three to five years in order to ensure students get the best benefits for the lowest cost.

“It’s very common to see what the [health insurance] market offers,” she said. “It doesn’t always result in change. The goal is not to change, but to get the best benefits for the best price.”

There will be a slight increase in cost for student health insurance from this school year to the next, but exact figures have not been finalized, Hanson said. She added that the price increase would have been significantly higher had the University stayed with UnitedHealthcare.

The process of purchasing student health insurance for the upcoming year will remain the same, said Anna Kenyon, insurance coordinator for Student Health.

Student insurance plans across the nation may have to be altered as part of health care reform, including both passed and pending laws, Hanson said. Student Health, which she said already provides “top-notch” insurance, does not anticipate having to significantly adjust the plan in response to potential federal health care changes, she added.

“At this point in time, we don’t have to change anything,” Hanson said. “We have already met all the criteria that health care reform is striving for.”

Hanson said the only aspect of health care reform currently affecting students is their newly esbalished ability to remain on their parents’ health insurance policy until they turn 26, as mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which became federal law in March 2010.

Student Health will assist students and their parents with the transition to the new provider this summer, Kenyon said, noting that students should check the department’s website regularly for updates.


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