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The AHP blog features the latest updates and best practices in student health.


Navigating Student Health Plans: Insights from Our Third National Student Benchmark Survey

Ancillary Coverages, Costs and Coverage, International Students, Risk Management, Student Health, Value-Added Benefits

by Elizabeth Marks, Senior Strategy Consultant

Good healthcare is connected to student success. Understanding student health plans helps insurers develop cost-saving strategies and support mental health needs. Analyzing trends and learning from student programs improves healthcare outcomes and enrollment rates, ensuring access for all students. In addition, creative solutions developed within student programs can serve as helpful inspiration for employee benefits teams.

With that, we’re pleased to present the findings of Risk Strategies’ Third National Student Benchmarking Survey, conducted between May and August 2023. The report features key findings around priorities and trends surrounding student health plans.

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Top Reasons for Issuing an RFP for Athletic Insurance Broker Services

Costs and Coverage, Risk Management, Student Health, Value-Added Benefits

by Jeff Struckle, Academic HealthPlans

Why should you issue an RFP for athletic insurance broker services instead of an RFP for athletic insurance?

The most important decision a college or university can make for its athletic accident insurance program is the selection of an insurance consultant/broker to advocate for their institution. The insurance consultant/broker provides expertise and valuable services to support the Institution’s overall athletic accident insurance program that may not be considered through a product-only RFP.

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Investing HEERF Grants into Mental Health Care

Costs and Coverage, Risk Management, Student Health

Colleges and universities across the country faced seismic enrollment declines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Total undergraduate enrollment declined 6.6% from Fall 2019 to Fall 2021, representing a loss of just over a million students. To help keep these colleges afloat, reverse enrollment losses, and ensure learning continued during the COVID-19 pandemic, $76.2 billion in federal stimulus funding was awarded through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.

Initially, funds were expected to cover the costs of student/campus housing, childcare, transportation, and on-campus food services. However, some institutions have found creative ways to spend their HEERF grants such as:

  • Technology Advancements
  • Fuel Assistance
  • Upgraded Facilities
  • Covid Mitigation Supplies
  • Financial Coaching
  • On-Campus Social Workers
  • Relieving Student Debt

Now, as demand for mental health resources among faculty, students, and staff soar, new guidance from the Education Department is urging colleges to address these needs by utilizing HEERF grants.

Addressing the mental health needs of students has long been a challenge for higher education institutions during the pandemic. According to a 2021 survey, an overwhelming 75% of college presidents indicated that mental health was a top concern on campuses. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona at the University of California, Riverside (a model for mental health care) said “The pandemic has exposed students to trauma, from the loss of loved ones to financial hardships to social isolation and social disruptions,” and stated that students need a variety of mental health resources on campus including, but not limited to:

  • Telehealth
  • Therapy / Counseling
  • Financial Wellness
  • Substance Use Support
  • Suicide Prevention Training

The new guidance, and a webinar from the Education Department (in collaboration with the American Council on Education), outlines ways colleges and universities can invest in mental health resources and expand their mental health support systems with HEERF funds.

Risk Strategies Higher Education Practice offers a complimentary analysis of your institution’s mental health resources and budget to provide recommendations on solutions that will work best for your student body.

Contact your Account Executive or email [email protected] for more information.


How Does the ‘No Surprises Act’ Affect Students?

Costs and Coverage, Risk Management

by Elizabeth Marks, Senior Strategy Consultant

On December 27, 2020, the No Surprises Act (NSA) was signed into law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. This act addresses surprise medical billing at the federal level. The regulations generally apply to group health plans and health insurance issuers for plan and policy years beginning on or after January 1, 2022.   The regulations specifically note that Individual health insurance coverage includes coverage offered in the individual market, through or outside of an Exchange, and includes student health insurance coverage. The applicable provisions will go into effect on the 2022-23 plan renewal date.

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Mental Health Concerns of Student-Athletes

Risk Management, Student Health

Over the years, research has shown just how beneficial and therapeutic exercise can be for mental health. From warding off depression to treating anxiety and other psychological disorders, moving our bodies increases endorphins and enkephalins and can have tremendous effects on the human mind. However, that doesn’t mean that athletes who participate in a wide range of sports are immune to mental health struggles.

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Find Out What’s Really Happening with Student Health Insurance


The Risk Strategies Annual Student Health Insurance Benchmarking survey provides a detailed look at key factors, including total costs, enrollment, benefits, and trends for the 2022 plan year. Representatives from 83 colleges and universities participated in the survey, with a response rate of 8%.  The goal of the inaugural survey is to obtain benchmark data to report on changes and trends year over year.  The data we provide brings valuable insights to academic administrators in their effort to build insurance programs that meet the needs of all students.

Costs Increasing. . . So is Emphasis on Value
The annual cost for student health benefits in 2021-22 went up 5% on a calculated average basis, with just under 25% of colleges reporting a rate reduction or no increase.  This compares with the 2020 annual employee benefit cost increase projected to be 3.6%, according to Mercer’s 2020 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans.  

Telehealth here to stay
95% of plans offer telemedicine for both physical and mental health visits and one-third of respondents indicated offering telemedicine for behavioral health to all students was a high priority.  

Costs Vary for Students/Much More Affordable than Group Health
Student plan costs vary by segment for undergraduate, graduate, and international students, with the overall average calculated at just under $3,000.  Most students pay the entire cost. 

By comparison, a survey by Kaiser indicated that average annual premiums for employer-sponsored health coverage reached $22,221 in 2021, with annual employee contributions for family coverage just under $6,000 on average. 

Focus on Flexibility and Quality
The overwhelming type of plan offered by colleges and universities is a preferred provider plan. Over 55% of plans have a deductible under $500 and about one-third over $500.   This is very low compared to the fact that employer-sponsored high deductible plans that require a minimum deductible of $1,350 per person continue to gain popularity.  According to the Mercer survey, enrollment in high-deductible account-based plans rose from 33% of all covered employees last year to 36% in 2019.

Student Health Insurance Key to Protecting Investment
“Finding out about student needs in a post-pandemic marketplace is vital for the nation’s 4,000 colleges and universities as well as the 19 million students they serve. The goal of our benchmarking survey is to give academic institutions the insights needed to set students up for long-term success through the protection of their physical, mental, and financial health.”
Terry Lyons, Managing Director of Risk Strategies Student Health Practice.

Survey results are released in several formats, including Quick Stats and an Executive Summary.   

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