After semester of mixed messages, international students will continue paying more for health insurance


Health insurance costs increased by hundreds of dollars this fall for many international students across the state. After a semester of mixed messages, during which Wichita State’s international students were given hope that they may be able to opt for a cheaper alternative to the university insurance policy, WSU clarified that they will have no such option.

“Until further notice, WSU will maintain the policy mandated by the Kansas Insurance Department,” read a Shocker Blast release last month. “The policy mandates that a student’s ‘insurer is authorized to do business in Kansas and is providing coverage under a policy that has been filed and approved by the Kansas Insurance Department.'”

International students are legally required to have health insurance. In May, the Student Insurance Advisory Committee (SIAC) updated its Affordable Care Act compliance standards, making it illegal for two popular insurance brokers — PSI and ISO — to sell cheap insurance plans to international students.

The university-offered UnitedHealthcare Student Services plan has a $709 premium this school year — up from $625. Last school year, PSI and ISO offered the same insurance plan for $309. PSI and ISO sell cheaper plans by covering mandatory examinations without incidental coverage.

In October, Student Body President Kenon Brinkley said he was informed that SIAC could not mandate that state universities only accept insurance providers authorized to do business in the state. At the time, Sheryl Mckelvey, WSU’s SIAC representative, confirmed that each state university can set up its own criteria for health insurance waivers.

Mckelvey was out of her office Wednesday. Director of Student Health Services Camille Childers said the WSU student health insurance sub-committee met in November to discuss the university’s insurance waiver criteria and determined that the compliance update was in fact a mandate.

“That’s the final verdict. The state is saying no,” Brinkley said. “These [providers] are unauthorized, and therefore, it is illegal.

“The Insurance Department is watching us and our verbiage and making sure that our third-party waiver company, ECI, isn’t told to waive these unauthorized health insurance plans.”

Unlicensed providers face no consequences for failing to make claims payments to students. Brinkley had previously argued that international students’ favored insurance providers have a track record of operating on good faith and that students who cannot afford to pay the higher premiums should be allowed to take the risk of buying a cheaper policy.

Brinkley said he hopes to work with the state legislature to clear up confusion in the policy requirements moving forward.

“We want to add clarity and specificity to what’s allowed and what’s not allowed so that no one else has to run into this issue,” Brinkley said.