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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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American University switches health insurance provider as rates increase

The switch follows significant rate hikes by previous provider

American University is switching health insurance providers for students in order to reduce price increases for students, the University announced in a March 18 email. 

AU students will be insured by Aetna instead of CareFirst as of Aug. 1. The switch comes after CareFirst raised its prices by as much as 40 percent and is intended to minimize increases to the cost of health insurance, said Traci Callandrillo, assistant vice president of campus life. 

Jonnel Clothier, the senior director of AU Central, said the 2021–2022 coverage period for CareFirst cost $1,981 for students. If prices rose as much as 40 percent, CareFirst’s coverage could have cost as much as $2,774. Aetna’s coverage period for 2022–2023 will cost $2,178. 

CareFirst did not respond to The Eagle’s request for comment.

All AU students — undergraduate, graduate and law — taking six or more credits are automatically enrolled in the student health insurance plan. Students can still waive the plan if their alternative coverage plan meets AU’s coverage standards.

Callandrillo said 4,700 students, a little more than one-third of the total student body, use the school’s healthcare.

CareFirst’s prices went up because of the pandemic, Callandrillo said, and every year, insurance companies bid for AU’s business. The school then negotiates the best price with the insurance companies. 

“We got to work with, from our angle, what we can get,” Callandrillo said. “And so that’s what we advocate for. It’s like, what can we get for the money?” Callandrillo said. 

Josie Bloom, a freshman in School of International Service, was insured by CareFirst and said she doesn’t have any concerns about the switch as long as Aetna provides the same healthcare services as CareFirst, like access to an OB-GYN and birth control.

The portal for students to activate their plan with Aetna or waive the University insurance opens May 16 and closes Sept. 12. 

Callandrillo said AU approached this year’s bidding process differently.

“One thing that did change is we negotiated some different possibilities for students who want to use out of network providers, particularly out of network mental health providers,” she said.

Part of Callandrillo’s job is getting as much coverage for students as possible. She said she’s looking for more flexibility across the board when students use out of network providers, pointing to mental health services as an example.

“Something to just know, from the just perspective of the landscape of health insurance, it’s going up for everyone,” Callandrillo said. “Whether it’s the plan that we have brokered, your parents' health insurance plan, everybody’s plan increased quite a bit. That’s one of the impacts of the pandemic.” 

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