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Student health insurance premiums are likely to rise almost $200 in the next academic year to reflect increasing health care costs across the nation.

Based on the recommendations approved yesterday by the Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee, the premium for the University-maintained student health care plan next year will be $2,072. The cost increase is pending approval by President Judith Rodin and the University Board of Trustees.

Almost half of Penn's student population chooses to carry the plan, and that number continues to grow, especially among the graduate student population.

The rising student premium cost marks a 10.2 percent increase over the 2003-2004 rates. Last year, SHIAC approved a 12.1 percent increase.

The insurance plan is "relatively stable year to year," said SHIAC Chairman and Deputy Provost Peter Conn. "We adjusted ... we refined," but did not make any significant alterations.

The increases come in a national environment that saw health care costs rising an average of 15 to 16 percent this year. SHIAC prevented such steep increases from fully affecting student premiums by increasing annual preferred care deductibles from $100 to $200. The preferred care deductible refers to costs incurred when students utilize specialty services -- like those outside of Student Health Services or emergency room visits.

Other changes to the plan include a $5 increase in the co-payment for outpatient lab and X-ray charges, as well as for mental health and substance abuse preferred care.

Without the deductible increase and co-payment hikes, the student premium would have risen by over 13 percent, according to SHIAC member and Associate Vice Provost for University Life Max King. SHIAC wanted to avoid that high of an increase but "had to make some concessions to do that."

Approximately 9,000 of the University's 20,000 students are currently on Penn's student health insurance program. Of these, around 8,000 are graduate students, according to SHIAC members. Students also have the option of carrying outside insurance policies but must have some type of health care coverage to take classes.

Other changes in next year's plan include expanded coverage for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder testing and treatment.

"We're seeing more students who would benefit," King said. "That's one [issue] that can be critical for a student to remain in school."

Overall, SHIAC members stressed the difficulty of working on a health care coverage plan given the precarious state of health care nationwide.

"We work in a very grim environment," Assistant to the Deputy Provost Anita Gelburd said. "Those realities really impinge on us."

Conn added that "it's an environment where most of the drivers are headed in the wrong direction."

A SHIAC- and Graduate and Professional Student Assembly-sponsored forum on the changes made for next year's plan will take place tonight in the Terrace Room of Logan Hall.

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