Northwestern announces new dental health plan

Amy Whyte, Reporter

The Office of Risk Management announced a new dental health plan Tuesday that will be available for open enrollment starting Nov. 15.

The plan is underwritten by Cigna and will serve as a replacement for the Aetna plan that was withdrawn from the student health insurance program at the end of last year.

“Unfortunately, of the 1,600 people enrolled in the Aetna plan last year, only 400 opted for the dental plan,” said Christopher Johnson, director of the Office of Risk Management. “That’s just not economically viable.”

Instead of a full dental health plan, Aetna had offered a discount plan that “doesn’t provide nearly the quality of benefits,” Johnson said.

“We heard students object to the fact that there wasn’t a fully insured plan, so my friends in the benefits division at Human Resources went out and did some extensive research and were able to identify these plans,” Johnson said.

The new plan from Cigna includes PPO and HMO options. PPO, or Preferred Provider Organization, has 16 participating dentists in Evanston, while HMO, or Health Maintenance Organization, has four participating dentists. Other differences between the two options include variations in coverage and costs.

Additionally, the new dental plan differs from the Aetna plan in that the Cigna plan is open to all students, whereas the Aetna plan was only offered to students already enrolled in University health insurance. Students who had already opted for Aetna’s discount plan can drop that plan and switch to the Cigna plan at no extra cost.

“The students who enrolled in the discount plan paid a $25 fee,” Johnson said. “If they want to drop it to go into either of these plans Aetna will fully refund that $25 fee. It’s a win-win.”

With the withdrawal of the Aetna dental plan due to lack of participation, Johnson said it is important that a minimum of 200 students enroll in the new plan.

“The main caveat is that for this to succeed this year at least 200 students have to enroll to make it financially viable,” Johnson said.

The dental health plan will be implemented for a nine-month period starting Dec. 1 and ending Aug. 31.

Amy Whyte