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Students this year have a wider range of options in choosing their health insurance policy with the addition of the Penn Add-On Plan, designed to supplement a pre-existing private insurance plan.

The Add-On Plan provides non-emergency or non-urgent medical and mental health care in Philadelphia and is primarily aimed at undergraduates who have private out-of-state Health Management Organizations or managed care insurance plans through their parents, according to Student Health Service director Evelyn Wiener.

The Add-On Plan costs $1,539 per year plus the $420 SHS clinical fee. As such, it is only $683 cheaper than the standard Penn Student Insurance Plan, which costs $2,642 per year.

Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee member and Wharton graduate student Mike Baiocchi said the seemingly high cost of the Add-On Plan can be explained by the fact that it only covers students in Philadelphia - where most students only reside during about three-quarters of the year. The PSIP plan, which works in any location in the United States, has a cost that reflects the fact that it can cover students year round, even if they leave Philadelphia.

Wiener expressed hopes that the price difference will be enough to convince students who might have previously attempted to fly under the SHS screening radar with inadequate coverage to buy insurance for their Philadelphia area needs.

According to Wiener, Penn and SHS have been working for the last seven to eight years to get a plan that would fill the gap between all insurance provided by Penn and all private coverage.

With this goal in mind, when Penn set out to bid for a better insurance provider in October 2008, it asked possible companies to provide a local coverage plan like the Add-On Plan. Aetna Student Health won the bid from a field of 11 providers and began developing the Add-On Plan starting in May. The plan was finalized in August.

Currently, only 50 to 60 students have inquired at SHS about the Add-On Plan, according to Wiener, but student and parent response to the added option has been very positive.

"Our goal is not to force people to buy insurance that they don't need. Our goal is to make sure they have insurance for when they need it," Wiener said. "I don't want a student not getting an X-ray, not getting physical therapy [or] not seeing a counselor in the mental health community because their insurance won't pay for it."

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