Committee Votes to Remove Limits on Coverage for UC Students

The Assembly Committee on Health last week voted to halt caps on health care coverage for some UC students. Currently, coverage for the roughly 135,000 students covered by UC plans runs out at $400,000, which can be catastrophic to students who develop rare and severe conditions, such as brain cancer.

“We want to make sure that UC students receive the same reforms as are in the Affordable Care Act,” said Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), author of AB 314, which passed the Assembly Committee on Health last week by a 13-4 vote. Under the Affordable Care Act, caps on care cost have been removed.

“We want to ensure, if [UC students] get a serious illness like cancer, they’re not left without care,” Pan said.

But according to UC officials at last week’s hearing, AB 314 will become moot by the time it passes a floor vote.

“We are in the middle of a process with this,” said Peter Taylor, executive vice president and chief financial officer at the University of California. “Preliminary feedback is that students are in favor of removing the caps, but by Apr. 8 we’ll have a better idea.”

That’s the date an advisory board of students will vote on the cap question, Taylor said.

“We are not in opposition, but we have no position on this bill,” said Angela Gilliard, UC’s legislative director. “The cost of this [cap] removal would go into the base, and we have no objection to that. But we’re trying to determine the cost to students.”

According to Taylor, that cost would be “between $70 and $90 per student per year.”

Those numbers seem high to Pan who has an estimate from the UC Office of the President that puts the cost at $12 to eliminate the annual cap on pharmacy costs, and $27 to eliminate the lifetime cap on care costs — for a grand total of about $39.

Whatever the number turns out to be, Taylor said, the administration has no opinion on it, because the policy and cost does not affect the UC administration.

“The bottom line is, the burden of removing caps will fall solely on the students,” Taylor said. “Though we do acknowledge that making sure students aren’t stranded is an important quality goal.”

Pan said UC officials should come up with the data to support their estimates.

“I’m inclined to let them work through their issues,” said Assembly member Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) at last week’s hearing. “If they go through with this by May, then they’d beat you to it.”

“I’d be very happy if they beat me to it,” Pan said, “because that would be the goal. I’m pleased to see UC is taking action on it.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

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