Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GU Subpoenaed Over Health Insurance Policy

New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo subpoenaed Georgetown this month as part of an investigation into the university’s relationship with health insurance companies that offer policies to students.

Cuomo’s office did not respond to requests for comment, but in a report by The New York Times on Sunday, Benjamin Lawsky, special assistant to the attorney general, said the investigation is “primarily focused on whether insurance companies are paying schools to push students into health coverage they don’t really need and shouldn’t really want.”

Several other universities have been issued subpoenas and document requests, including Cornell University, Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College and six State University of New York campuses – Binghamton, Buffalo State, Oswego, Purchase, Stony Brook and Buffalo.

“With students and their families being financially squeezed at every turn, colleges must ensure that they are looking out for students’ best interests first and foremost as opposed to their own financial bottom line,” Lawsky said in Sunday’s article.

University spokesperson Julie Bataille confirmed that Georgetown had been issued the subpoena but was unsure exactly when it was received.

“We are reviewing it and will determine the appropriate response,” she said.

Representatives from the Student Health Insurance Office and the Office of University Counsel – the group responsible for the provision of legal services to the university – referred questions to Bataille.

“[The subpoena] will be handled out of counsel’s office in a confidential matter,” Bataille said.

According to the Student Health Insurance Office’s Web site, students registered for nine or more credit hours in a degree program are required to enroll in “the most comprehensive student injury and sickness plan offered through the university, unless their other insurance coverage meets specific university requirements.”

The comprehensive coverage is known as the Premier Plan, and students are charged once every academic year for the plan’s coverage. However, students can elect to waive the charges if they already have health insurance of at least $100,000 per injury and per illness. Some students who are already insured under their parents’ health programs choose to waive the Premier Plan.

This semester, students who remained enrolled in the Premier Plan were obligated to pay $1,710 in insurance charges issued to their student accounts. This cost has remained relatively consistent – last year, students enrolled in the plan were charged $1,690, and in 2006, they paid $1,910.

Both Robert Hornsby, director of media relations at Columbia University, and Simeon Moss, press office director at Cornell University, confirmed the receipt of subpoenas but declined to comment further.

Columbia University currently offers two levels of insurance coverage – a basic and comprehensive level. The premium for annual basic coverage is $1,498 and $2,148 for comprehensive coverage, according to their Web site. Like at Georgetown, students are automatically enrolled in the basic coverage program but can submit a waiver request. At Cornell University, the annual premium rate for students is $1,514.

Georgetown worked with Gallagher Koster, an organization that develops student healthcare insurance programs for colleges and universities, to customize the 2008-2009 Premier Plan, according to their Web site. The Premier Plan is underwritten by the United Healthcare Insurance Company, a subsidiary of the healthcare giant UnitedHealth Group, which is the largest single health carrier in the United States.

This is not the first time that Cuomo’s office has launched an investigation into the university’s operations.

Last year, the university cut ties with Student Financial Services, a Florida-based student loan company, after Cuomo accused it of paying the university’s athletic department for the right to use their logos, mascots and clothing to make students believe the lender was somehow affiliated with Georgetown. The university was one of 63 schools involved in that investigation.

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