Amendments to health insurance plan will return costs for mental health treatment to a lower price

Searle+Hall%2C+home+to+University+Health+Service.+Northwestern+renegotiated+its+plan+with+Aetna+to+lower+the+cost+of+mental+health+treatment+after+students+expressed+concern+over+initial+changes+to+the+2019-2020+plan.
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Amendments to health insurance plan will return costs for mental health treatment to a lower price

Searle Hall, home to University Health Service. Northwestern renegotiated its plan with Aetna to lower the cost of mental health treatment after students expressed concern over initial changes to the 2019-2020 plan.

Searle Hall, home to University Health Service. Northwestern renegotiated its plan with Aetna to lower the cost of mental health treatment after students expressed concern over initial changes to the 2019-2020 plan.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Searle Hall, home to University Health Service. Northwestern renegotiated its plan with Aetna to lower the cost of mental health treatment after students expressed concern over initial changes to the 2019-2020 plan.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Searle Hall, home to University Health Service. Northwestern renegotiated its plan with Aetna to lower the cost of mental health treatment after students expressed concern over initial changes to the 2019-2020 plan.

Cameron Cook, Reporter

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Aetna, Northwestern’s health insurance provider, has agreed to amend the Student Health Insurance plan after students expressed concern over an increase in the cost of mental health treatment, Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, interim vice president for student affairs, announced in an email Saturday.

The University and Aetna renegotiated the terms of the plan to reinstate a $20 cap on in-network mental health care that had been previously removed for the 2019-2020 academic year, as well as increase the coverage on out-of-network care from 60 percent to 80 percent, Payne-Kirchmeier wrote. She emphasized the impact of student feedback that came through “a few channels” including administrators from The Graduate School and in Student Affairs.

The changes will be made retroactively, so claims made prior to the change will be revisited and Aetna will issue refunds where applicable, according to a University “FAQ” document. It will take about three weeks before the system is updated.

[Read more about the initial changes to the 2019-2020 insurance plan]

The original changes to the plan sparked outrage among students who could see their costs go up by at least $13 per appointment.

Before renewing the insurance plan, Northwestern worked with Aetna to “evaluate alternative options to satisfy the compliance requirement,” University Spokesman Bob Rowley told The Daily earlier this month. The changes to mental health treatment costs — which removed a $20 cap on in-network appointments and increased the patient contribution on out-of-network appointments — were “identified to be the most cost-effective and least disruptive solution.”

However, after hearing students were unhappy, the University asked Aetna to revisit alternative solutions, Payne-Kirchmeier wrote. Aetna’s compliance team “developed a solution to create a short term fix” for the current plan, and it’s unclear whether the rates will change in the future, something that has already left students worried.

Though students have responded well to the news, some are taking to Twitter to voice confusion over whether the University could have asked Aetna to make the change sooner.

Members of Northwestern Graduate Workers, some who reached out directly to administrators asking for information before the recent change was announced, are “very concerned” that the policy went through in the first place, organizing member Kitty Yang told The Daily in an email, as well as the short-term nature of the solution.

“If it was this easy to go back to the copay cap, then it should not have been changed in the first place,” she said. “There are students, myself included, who will have to wait for a reimbursement that did not have to happen. Lastly, it’s pretty clear from Julie’s email that she is setting up for this to possibly come back next year, which is something we want to fight.”

The changes will be made retroactively, so claims made prior to the change will be revisited and Aetna will issue refunds where applicable, according to a University “FAQ” document. It will take about three weeks before the system is updated.

Email: cameroncook@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @cameron_e_cook

 

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