For Immediate Release - April 05, 2010

PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES IMPROVEMENTS TO HEALTH INSURANCE BENEFITS FOR COMMUNITY AND STATE COLLEGE STUDENTS

Students to See Significantly Better Quality and Comprehensiveness

BOSTON - Monday, April 5, 2010 - Governor Deval Patrick today announced a sweeping reorganization of student health insurance benefits for state and community college students, bringing them significantly better coverage for their premium dollar.

The improvements come after months of work from representatives in education, health care and finance who have been meeting since November 2009 when the Patrick-Murray Administration issued a first-ever state report that indicated that students were not receiving appropriate coverage or value through the existing plans. In response to that report, the Governor's Office received 1,000 pieces of mail in favor of improving the health plans for students.

"Our success in providing quality, affordable health insurance to our residents continues with our reform of health insurance for students in higher education. With this reorganization of benefits, students will be able to take advantage of important comprehensive care," said Governor Patrick, who requested a thorough review and recommendations for helping students get better coverage.

Beginning in August, some 11,000 students will have access to a broader provider network, as well as wellness and medical management benefits. The plan will be provided by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, which won the bidding process.

"By reforming student health insurance benefits, we will be able to provide greater protection and peace of mind for students and their families," Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray said. "We brought transparency and competition into the process and, as a result, our students will see their health coverage significantly improve."

The Student Health Plan Steering Committee, convened by Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland, and comprised of 26 individuals, including students and administrators from the Commonwealth's state and community colleges, instituted a comprehensive, competitive procurement process to identify a plan to ensure students get access to high quality care moving forward. The Committee also included representatives from the University of Massachusetts; the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy; the Commonwealth Connector Authority; the Department of Higher Education; the Executive Office of Education; the Executive Office and Administration and Finance and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services,

"Massachusetts is fortunate to have advocates who are willing to work with us in our continuing efforts to ensure that all people in the Commonwealth have comprehensive access to care. Student advocates played an essential role in making sure we revised student health plans," said Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. "The reorganization reflects the Governor's ongoing commitment to finding affordable solutions for health care delivery."

Since 1989, all higher education students in Massachusetts have been required to have health coverage. The majority of students are covered through plans provided by family members, but some still purchase services through their institutions of study. Those students will benefit greatly from this new plan.

"This is a great leap forward for student health care, and it's also a powerful example of how colleges within our public system are working together to enhance our students' well-being," said Commissioner Freeland. "By grouping their students together, the colleges are able to maximize their buying power, resulting in a much improved health plan."

"This new exceptional Health Care Plan from a universally-recognized provider combines a truly affordable price with comprehensive coverage and convenience that our students deserve," said President David Hartleb of Northern Essex Community College.

"We are pleased to provide our students with expanded health insurance coverage at an affordable premium that also allows for excellent access to health providers locally, nationally and internationally," said Admiral Richard Gurnon, President, Massachusetts Maritime Academy and Chair of the State College Council of Presidents. "Our productive partnership with all of those involved in the recent student health insurance plan bid process provides a foundation for future joint purchasing collaboration with other higher education institutions going forward.

"I am happy to have contributed to a process that resulted in a change which will enhance the health insurance options for students in the Massachusetts Public Colleges," said Weverton T. Silva, student trustee at Bunker Hill Community College. "This change will give students access to much better coverage for essentially the same cost."

"We're excited to have been chosen," said Larry Croes, Vice President at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. "This is all about providing improved health coverage for students in our state and community colleges."

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