Risk Strategies Annual Education Practice Student Health Plan Survey Finds Controlling Cost Reemerges as Primary Concern; Student Mental Health Drops to Third 

Interest in utilizing data analytics to understand cost drivers newly noted

BOSTON, April 25, 2024 -- Risk Strategies, a leading national specialty insurance brokerage and risk management and consulting firm, today released the findings of its Third Annual  Student Health Plan Benchmarking Survey, which showed controlling costs once again ranking as the top concern among university and college student health plan administrators. The survey results also showed mental health coverage continues to be a top-three priority for plan administrators.

The survey of approximately 140 colleges and universities, conducted midyear 2023, revealed that the average student health plan cost mean increase rose in 2023 by 4.7%. In the past two years, student health plans had seen a full 5% rise in mean increase. Analysis of this year’s survey responses indicates that the slight downward shift is primarily driven by fewer schools having rate increases of over 10% in 2023 compared to 2022.

A top concern this year is the emergence of understanding cost drivers through data analytics. Almost three-quarters of respondents, 73%, rated this approach as a priority to understanding plan costs, a significant increase from the 60% of respondents who cited it in 2022.

“In this third year of our annual survey, we see clear signs that student health plan administrators are looking not only at costs, but overall value,” said Terry Lyons, National Education Practice Leader, Risk Strategies. “It’s encouraging that we’re seeing a slight drop in overall costs, even as benefits remain essentially the same.”

Additional survey findings of note include:

  • For colleges with waiver or opt-out enrollment, more (75%) are verifying other coverage.  And the number of schools that verify 100% coverage jumped to 85% from 70% the prior year. Higher enrollment is a factor in stabilizing rates.
  • Plans covering only international students had lower costs compared to domestic plans even with comparable ACA benefits. Rates were 26% less than undergraduate student rates and 42% less than graduate student rates. However, most schools (74%) have a combined domestic/international plan.
  • The average annual deductible has remained close to $300 for the last three years, as well as primary care office visit copays at $20 and generic prescription drug copays at $10. Low out-of-pocket expenses support the overall value of student plans.
  • Fewer than one-quarter (23%) of plans provide a subsidy for graduate level students. When subsidies were provided, most represented 75% or more of the plan cost.
  • Virtually all (97%) plans are PPOs. The competitive landscape reflects the national footprint which includes Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and United Healthcare.

As with the 2022 survey, colleges and universities listed addressing mental health needs as a top concern. Almost three-quarters, 74%, of respondents in the 2023 survey cited it as a top priority, compared with the 2022 survey in which mental health tied with managing plan costs as top concern. The slight drop in mental health as a priority comes with signs colleges are directing mental health efforts into new wellness programs. Just under three quarters of 2023 survey respondents indicated they offer wellness programs featuring therapy visits, 24/7 crisis management and psychiatry visits, and of those 70% of colleges offer programs to all students on campus.

Additional information on the survey and key findings, including wellness, co-pays, ancillary products, and other key features are here.

To learn more about Risk Strategies, please visit risk-strategies.com.  

About Risk Strategies

Risk Strategies is the 9th largest privately held US brokerage firm offering comprehensive risk management advice, insurance and reinsurance placement for property & casualty, employee benefits, private client services, as well as consulting services and financial & wealth solutions. With more than 30 specialty practices, Risk Strategies serves commercial companies, nonprofits, public entities, and individuals, and has access to all major insurance markets. Risk Strategies has over 100 offices including Boston, New York City, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Grand Cayman, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Nashville, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. RiskStrategies.com.

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