UC Student Health Insurance (SHIP)

Parent Q&A

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  • My son is starting at UCSD this Fall, and I’m trying to figure out what we should do about health insurance, and whether he should waive out of UC SHIP.  I work at Cal, and the whole family is currently insured through my employer, i.e. UC Berkeley at Anthem Blue Cross (the “UC Care” plan).  There must be other families like ours! Have others in similar situations made use of UC SHIP? Did you drop the dependent from your insurance or keep both?   I would like it to be the case that he can easily access medical care in San Diego if needed, but if he needed major medical treatment, I imagine he might want to receive care here in the Bay Area, so we could take care of him at home.   I’m not understanding the UC SHIP’s *or* Anthem’s webpages that seem relevant here. Can you help?

    When my child was in college back east, we had Anthem Blue Shield and I found the "Away From Home Care" department to be VERY knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful.  The number is (800) 622-9402.  https://www.blueshieldca.com/bsca/documents/find-a-provider/A12075-LG_9…

    Hello! If you can afford it, I would recommend that you opt IN to the SHIP plan in san Diego. I work at UHS at UCB and I can't tell you how many times students arrive for care and then there is a delay because we need to refer them out because of their insurance. Then, of course, they have no idea where to go for lab work because they weren't informed about all that stuff, and often, their primary care provider is far away and their office is overworked and unhelpful. Also, they may avoid care because they don't want to ask you (read: STD, birth control, etc.) 

    If you can't afford it, then I would strongly recommend that part of your child going to school orientation include where they would go for labwork, what is their primary care provider willing to do remotely, etc. Certainly UC Care is a great plan, but when someone feels sick is not the time to try to figure out how do you get the proper doc to order needed labs and where is the lab to go to?

    My daughter is going away to school this year, but is much closer to home (1 hour) than San Diego is. Remember that even though you think you'd have your child fly home for care...what if they are in no condition to fly? Or what if they need something more urgently? Since she is closer, she is much better able to access her care with her usual docs in the bay area. My other kid is looking at schools in So Cal, so I will be making different decisions for him when the time comes!

    Last bit of advice: there are services that ALL students can access at Tang regardless of whether they have SHIP or not, and there are some services that they cannot access. See if you can figure out what those services are at UCSD. I understand that it might be hard to figure out on line. 

    And, yes, the odds that your kid will need care while in school is remote--they are probably young and healthy! And, my viewpoint is biased because I'm the one that sees the cases that are problematic. (For example, we had one person who needed to fly back across the state because her health insurance was only good on the military base her mom was stationed at!) And yes, SHIP is expensive, but it is comprehensive care and a great plan. 

    My daughter started UCSD last year and we waived SHIP. She pays a small fee for RAFT, which I think is required if you waive SHIP. It allows her to use student health for minor stuff. It’s a really nice combo for her to be able to access both student health for small stuff and Kaiser if needed for bigger stuff. 

    If your student's health insurance is covered by your employer you don't need UCSHIP, but you will have an option to pay a small amount so that he can access the campus health center. The full UCSHIP is a good option for students whose parents have to pay out of pocket for their insurance, and is often covered by financial aid.

    Hi, well I have a *sort of* similar situation: daughter with heart condition, now a sophomore at UCLA. Our private Blue Shield insurance covers her for annual care at Children's Hospital Oakland, which is now under the UCSF/Benioff umbrella. But try as I might, I could not find a way for her to have unfettered access to medical care at UCLA  *and* medical care that would be guaranteed to cover her at UCSF/Benioff. The UC SHIP is *supposed* to cover them at UC-related facilities (like UCSF) when they are away from campus in summer, but in practice I could not make it work. On the other hand, if you don't have UC SHIP it seems kind of impossible to get seen on campus by doctors, or to get any dental care there. I know you don't want to hear this but: we ended up keeping both policies.  

    I hope this is not too late.  My son is starting at UCLA.  His pediatrician and also an NP at another group, told us they kept both insurances (PPO and SHIP) when their kids went to college.  I didn't really understand why, exactly, but a previous poster explained it well, and I am glad you asked the question.  

    When I first attended Cal in the late 80s, I

    was in my 20s and SHIP met my care needs perfectly. Tang even referred me out when I needed a procedure they were not able to do at the campus health center. The one aspect of the care I received that I didn’t like was the inability to have a doctor with whom I could build a relationship; each visit I saw whomever was available, despite my attempts to book follow up appointments with the doctor who had originally seen me.

    I returned to Cal for a PhD while in my 40s. By this time I had a complex health history, including the need to be monitored in case my cancer returned. I had a team of medical professionals at UCSF whom I liked and with whom I had been working for some time. At that life stage I couldn’t imagine going to student health services,  needing special permission to be seen by my UCSF care team, and having to constantly explain my health history to practitioners who had limited contact with patients my age, let alone patients who had the conditions I did/do. 

    In light of my experiences, I would agree that SHIP offers excellent, comprehensive, and appropriate care for students in their teens-20s who are essentially healthy and require only routine, primarily preventative, care. However, if your child has a complex history, and especially if they need ongoing mental health services, I wouldn’t rely on SHIP for primary coverage.

  • I have the Berkeley Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) and have been having some trouble finding a midwife that will be covered. The plan is administered by Anthem Blue Cross but I believe it's a plan specific to Berkeley students. Anthem told me the plan has no covered midwives but the Berkeley SHIP office has told me there are definitely covered midwives, they just don't know who they are/how to reach them. I looked back through the archives but didn't see any posts about the student insurance plan specifically. Has anyone used a great midwife who was covered by Berkeley SHIP? Thank you!

    As a healthcare practitioner (acupuncturist), I spend a lot of time dealing w insurance. Are you seeking the services of a "home birth midwife" or a certified nurse midwife? If it is the former, you may have trouble finding someone who is "in-network" w your insurance as insurance companies may not allow home birth midwives on their panels for various reasons. However, you may have luck finding a midwife who is "out of network" who can give you what is called a "Superbill" (you pay out of pocket, but you are given the paperwork to file an insurance claim) - if you have out-of-network maternity benefits, you may be eligible for some reimbursements. If you are open to seeing a CNM within a clinical setting, you may have more options in terms of getting "in-network" care... 

    Hope this helps! 

    I didnt have SHIP but something similar also managed by Nathem. The way it worked was that there was a directory of covered midwives but none were in the Berkeley area. I ended up paying out of pocket and getting partially reimbursed through Anthem, all in all I paid about $1400 out of pocket for the whole birth. I used Lindy Johnson (she’s wonderful) and delivered at Alta Bates. Hope that helps.

    This was shared with me through social services! I was told that it is updated frequently so you may need to check back with SHIP for a new list (though this is as of May 2018). 


    I had the UCSF ship plan several years ago and petitioned the plan to have a midwife covered as none were available nearby at the time. 

    Thanks for the replies! In case it saves others some time in the future, that list of midwives from Berkeley, while it is their updated list, is completely inaccurate. Most of the phone numbers are wrong or take you to operators, automated lines, etc. My partner and I spent four or five hours calling down the list and couldn't reach a single person. We had better luck googling the names on the list and trying to find other phone numbers. But, in the end, if you have the Berkeley SHIP insurance you have three choices: 1. You can pay out of pocket for a midwife and get reimbursed for some portion (like other replies mentioned) 2. You can get a midwife from LifeLong (or similar clinic) who can do your prenatal care and then a hospitalist midwife at Alta Bates for delivery. 3. You can use an in-network ob/gyn. Hope this might help someone else down the line!  

  • SHIP Questions

    Jul 13, 2016

    Hello BPN!
    I am wondering if you guys have any advice about what insurance plans work
    well for newborns? Can you tell me anything about your experience with SHIP?
    Any information would be very beneficial!
    Lincoln B

    No responses received.

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Health Plans with UC changing

Sept 2013

The health plan we have now will not be offered by UC next year. It is Anthem Blue Cross Plus. I am wondering if anyone knows exactly why it will not be offered, and which plan is the most similar that will be offered. We have loved this plan and are not happy it is being discontinued. anon

You did not mention what your affiliation with UC Berkeley is (faculty, student, staff) so I do not know if this makes a difference. But I am a graduate student at UC Berkeley and all of our insurance changed as well. The Cal student health insurance plan (SHIP) for the past handful of years was part of a group plan that included all 10 UC campuses. Due to some financial and administrative mismanagement at the UC Office of the President, this past year a huge deficit was discovered. Through a pretty extensive process, UC Berkeley opted to return to a campus- only plan for its students. This has meant a change of medical, dental, and vision plans. Our new insurance is handled by Aetna and in my experience with a few non-campus providers (mental health, neurology, dental) it seems that all/most of the Anthem providers are covered by Aetna and the coverage is comparable. Again, I'm not sure if this change has affected faculty and staff in the same way, but if you are a student this would be the reason and I would double check with all of your doctors. I am happy to say that after an annoying day of phone calls checking on coverage, I've been able to stay with all of my providers. anon

2004 - 2007 Recommendations

UCB student dental insurance

May 2006

Help! I need dental work and the list of dentists for the UCB dental insurance coverage is so long...does anyone have a dentist they use that takes our student insurance and they would recommend them? thanks michele

The UCB student dental insurance covers 80% of the costs of using dentists who aren't on their list, so if you can afford to pay the other 20% yourself, you have a LOT of choices. I use Dr. Clopton on Regent St. and really like him--I can get an appointment within a couple of weeks of when I call, he explains everything he does, and more than any dentist I've had before, carefully points out areas where I can do a better job of dental care myself to avoid having drilling done later. Elizabeth

I've been seeing Michael Young on Solano in Albany for almost 6 years now, and he definitely takes the UCB student insurance. I've never had anything but cleanings and x-rays but my daughter has had a couple of fillings done. I've always been pleased with his work; it is a small, friendly office and they schedule my daughter and I together so we only have to go in once. Kristen

I go to University Dental at Solano/San Pablo Ave in Albany. Their phone number is 510-528-7216. I have seen 3 different dentists over the last 5 years, and I think that all the dentists in the practice are excellent. The best part is that you just give them your student ID while making an appointment, and they get all the information directly from Tang center records and SHIP insurance. No filling out forms or hassles. It is very easy to get an appointment within 2-3 days and same day for emergencies. The front desk lady is wonderful. She would work patiently with you and maximize your benefit. For example, I needed 4 molars extracted last year. The maximum SHIP allows is $1000 for a calendar year. So she suggested to get two extractions done in December and two in January! That way it was all covered, leaving some for twice a year cleanings. I could even chew on one side while the other side was sore for a couple of days after extraction. There are coupons for extras, such as teeth whitening (not covered by SHIP) in the Guide to Good Life at Berkeley book. Overall, the office is very nice and makes you feel that they care about you, and do their best to accomodate your needs and budget as a student. They even pick you up from campus! happy teeth

Oct 2005

University Health Services can help you learn about and get connected to the health insurance options available for dependents. We are knowledgeable about a variety of individual private insurance plans as well as community-based plans, both publicly supported and nonprofit. Please start by visiting our web site, http://www.uhs.berkeley.edu/students/insurance/families.shtml , which includes descriptions of the available plans and links to the plans' web sites. You can start the selection process by reviewing the plans and evaluating their benefit levels and prices. When you are ready for additional assistance, please call or stop by the Student Health Insurance Office on the third floor of the Tang Center, (510) 642-5700. Thanks,
Heather Pineda, MPH Health Plan Administrator University Health Services University of California, Berkeley

2003 & Earlier

SHIP won't pay for anesthesia during childbirth

Sept 2002

Does anyone have experience fighting with SHIP and Blue Cross for pregnancy and delivery issues?

After THREE DAYS of being induced at Alta Bates, I finally went into labor and didn't need a C-section. Nevertheless, my doctor practically ordered me to get an epidural since I was exhausted. The anesthesiologist on duty that morning is not part of the network and SHIP refused to pay any of the 80%. I complained because I didn't have any choice in the provider and Alta Bates is supposedly covered by SHIP. They reduced the $800 balence by $50, which is unacceptable to me.

In the meantime, the anesthesiologist was about to send a collection agency after me, so I have written another letter to SHIP demanding that they pay more of it or I will go to the State Board of Insurance. I will call Blue Cross directly again and the anesthesiologist may give me a discount.

Any advice? Irene

SHIP refused to pay for my week-long hospitalization when I went into labor at seven months, stating that my labor was not an emergency and I did not need to be hospitalized. My doctor wrote an angry letter to the insurance office, and the bill was paid. Have your doctor write a letter stating that your epidural was necessary. That should do it. The guy over at the Tang Center seems to authorize as little as possible. I am still trying to get them to pay for lab bills from over a year ago! Mary

I had Blue Cross PPO and delivered at Alta Bates last year, and the epidural wasn't covered. None of their anesthesiologists are covered. I mentioned this problem to my OB/GYN who suggested that my only recourse was to negotiate with the Anesthesiologist: ''send a letter, a check, and say 'this is how much I'm willing to pay'''. I asked Blue Cross what their adjusted/allowable amount was for the epidural and I paid a little more than that as a reasonable basis for compensation. It was about half of the invoice. I never heard from the anesthesiologist again. Of course, I handled this matter within 2-3 weeks of receiving the invoice.

The anesthesiologist's billing service suggested that I write a letter to the doctor pleading a hardship case. I think you should try your hardest to negotiate with the doctor to forestall your account going to collections in order to save your credit rating. A token partial payment might help get a dialog going. It will at least buy you time to complete your efforts with insurance. By the way, last I heard, the only Pediatricians in the East Bay accepting Blue Cross was Summit Pediatrics in Orinda. Good luck. Kim

To the person who had trouble with her insurance paying for her delivery bills. I missed your letter, but here is some useful info. of organizations that may be able to help you.

Office of the Patient Advocate 1-866-466-8900 www.opa.ca.gov HMO Help Center : 1-888-HMO-2219 www.hmohelp.ca.gov California Patient's Guide : www.calpatientguide.org Department of Insurance 1-800-927-4357 www.insurance.ca.gov

You can also request an Independent Medical Review to settle the issue. Call the HMO Help Center and they should be able to help you start the process. Good luck Gladys

Alternatives to DHIP (Dependent Health Insurance)

March 2000

DHIP rates just went up another 20% !! Can anyone recommend an alternative to the university's DHIP program? (they sell Blue Cross California Care HMO to students w/ dependents) The current rate for 3-party family is $1278 (that's $142 per person, per month). Seems like a lot... What are other people doing for health care coverage for their spouse/kids if they don't receive it from their employer? Recs for other plans or agents would be greatly appreciated... also, some figures regarding what people are paying monthly for their coverage. Thanks, Holly.

I got a flyer in the mail the other day that addresses this topic. Seems that Kaiser offers a personal advantage plan to individuals and families. $15 office visits, $10 copay for Rx. Assuming one spouse is under 40 yrs, a family plan would be $338/mo for both parents and all children. For just one parent and one child it would be $194/mo, and for one child only it would be $69/mo. There are many more options. The flyer said: To obtain a no obligation enrollment kit, call 1-800-325-6662. Applicants are subject to a medial review. Good luck! Dawn

I know what you mean! We bailed out of DHIP long ago for a private insurer (Frankel Ins.?) whose rates were cheaper than DHIP -- the way it was explained to us, DHIP is higher because of the pregnancy coverage -- the California Care HMO we got through Frankel Ins. was exactly the same as the DHIP coverage, but with an additional $1,000 co-pay in case of pregnancy. But eventually even that got out of hand -- we were billed monthly, and it got to be close to $400/mo. I struggled with whether to get on the Healthy Families program (which is a very good program, if you haven't already checked them out), but I couldn't bear to give up my pediatrician. Finally I decided to go directly to Blue Cross and change our coverage from a $10/co-pay to a $40/co-pay. This reduced our monthly premium to $156. It works for us -- good luck! MMRivas

If you haven't already, check out http://www.ehealthinsurance.com. You can browse a variety of plans and experiment with different copayments/deductibles to determine your costs. Good Luck! Rachel

SHIP and mental health benefits


Those people interested in seeing a marriage counselor or undergoing other therapy should know that SHIP (Student Health Insurance Plan) covers up to 600$ of outpatient psychotherapy per calender year. The maximum reimbursement per visit is $40. Since the coverage is per calender year, you can see a therapist for sessions spanning Nov-March, for instance, and get $1200 paid for through your insurance! I'm not sure whether or not staff are covered in a similar way, but this is certainly worth pursuing for grad students.