This time last year, the Tennessee Board of Regents updated their healthcare system, making students from the U.S. ineligible for university-sponsored insurance policies.

These changes had direct effect on ETSU students and are being implemented a year later.

Pamela Williams, site coordinator of the ETSU Student Health Clinic, said this decision was made in response to rising costs of healthcare and insurance companies’ unwillingness to partner with universities.

“The cost of healthcare is rising,” Williams said. “Previously, we had insurance providers who worked with the university to offer healthcare to our students. They are no longer wanting to bid on policies because it has become so expensive.”

The university accepts in-network insurance providers — providers with pre-contracted rates with ETSU — such as Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana, etc. as coverage if students have their own policy independently.

If the policy is considered an out-of-network provider — providers that don’t have pre-contracted rates with ETSU — students may still be effectively covered for low-cost services.

“For example, if students have Aetna insurance, and we are an out-of-network provider, there are a lot of services that they are still eligible to get free-of-charge,” Williams said.

The question of university-sponsored insurance then becomes an issue in the case of uninsured domestic students. Instead of university-sponsored policies, uninsured students are now encouraged to enroll in the federal government’s Affordable Care Act.

“Domestic students can use the Affordable Care Act as their insurance coverage,” said Williams. “Enrollment is fairly easy and can be done on their website.”

Students can access the governoment-sponsored healthcare marketplace

TBR made this change for domestic students only because international students are not eligible to enroll in the Affordable Care Act, so there is still a need to provide them with insurance plans through universities.

“The insurance provider for international students is International Student Protection,” Williams said. “Students can sign up for this insurance plan at the International Office on campus.”

Williams reminds students that all decisions regarding healthcare and insurance policies are made by TBR. Universities do not make these decisions independently.