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Anthony Dent - University of North Carolina

Last year, a tuition hike at the University of North Carolina provoked intense debate among students, but an increase of a far greater magnitude for students who are covered by the UNC system Pearce & Pearce (now Chartis) health insurance plan hasn’t received nearly the same attention.

Dollar-for-dollar, tuition at UNC is going up $695 or 9.9 percent for academic year 2012-2013 while costs for the health insurance plan are increasing $497 or 54.0 percent for the same period. UNC is by no means alone—rates at UNC-Asheville will shoot up 95.0 percent from last year. This increase will affect the 5,895 students on the plan at UNC and the approximately 64,000 students on the plan system-wide.

The UNC General Administration gives two reasons for the increase—a high level of usage and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly known as ObamaCare). Approximately twelve percent of the increase this year is attributable to ObamaCare (about $60), according to Bruce Mallette, Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs. The rest of the increase is an attempt by Chartis/Pearce & Pearce to lower their loss ratio from the past two years closer to the contractual level of 77 percent. The loss ratios for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 academic years were 118 percent and 165 percent, respectively. Basically, this means that Chartis/Pearce & Pearce has been subsidizing UNC students. For every dollar paid in premiums, Chartis/Pearce & Pearce has been paying out $1.18 and $1.65 for the past two years.

There are some questions concerning the selection of Chartis/Pearce & Pearce. The main consultant that UNC GA used during the bidding process was the North Carolina Association of Insurance Agents whose specialty is property and casualty insurance, not medical insurance. They are also paid through a one percent commission fee on the premium meaning that the NCAIA is not incentivized to keep premiums low.

The university system chose to not rebid the contract because of ObamaCare and the short amount of time that has elapsed since the last bidding process, but given the fact that the insurance premium has almost doubled since the 2010-2011 academic year, the bidding process next year is long overdue.

There are many lessons to be learned here. The fact that a private company was unable to accurately predict the premium at which it would not be effectively subsidizing its customers for the services it provides makes one question the ability of our government to be able to control costs when there is no profit motive in play.

The UNC-Chartis/Pearce & Pearce experience also seems to contradict one of the underlying tenets of ObamaCare, i.e., pooling people together will lower costs across the board. Who would have thought that students—in what is traditionally thought of as the lowest risk category for health insurers—could manage to almost double premium costs in only two short years? Never mind the fact that ObamaCare—advertised as a way to reduce health care costs—is actually adding to the financial burden students must bear next year.

It also calls into question mandates generally. UNC’s “public option” has turned out to cost much more per monthly than an individual plan with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, for example. While 10-12% of students were uninsured at UNC before the mandate, it’s not clear that students have benefitted from the mandate with highly volatile, exponentially increasing costs associated with the UNC plan.

Unfortunately, ObamaCare hasn’t turned out to be the cure-all in was advertised to be, and students will have to suffer the consequences of increased insurance costs.

Fix Contributor Anthony Dent of the Carolina Review is a student at the University of North Carolina.

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Based on the wave of recent reports detailing the declining interest in Occupy Wall Street, let’s just bite the bullet and publish the final obit: Occupy Wall Street, Dead, 213 Days Old.

At the University of North Carolina, The Daily Tar Heel recently observed, “Occupy Chapel Hill-Carrboro meeting attendees once packed a plaza, but these days they barely surround a coffee table.”

Other encampments around the country are in similar decline. While Occupy New Haven recently celebrated its six-month anniversary, the encampment is on its last legs. This despite a dose of legal life-support it received from a federal injunction overturning an earlier decision in which judges sided with the city in their efforts to evict the protesters.

A prominent member of Occupy New Haven has even joined city officials in calling for an end to the occupation. “The longer we stay [encamped] on the Green, the more damage we do to our cause,” he wrote in a statement.

This hasn’t stopped some occupiers from ignoring the doom right before their eyes as if they are the dinner guests in a sordid reproduction of the “Death” scene from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life—just look at last month’s re-occupation at UC-Davis.

Some occupiers just can’t let go.

But numbers don’t lie. While Zucotti Park, the epicenter of OWS, saw as many as 15,000 protesters one day last October, the most recent occupation last week could only boast 75 participants.

The decline of the occupy movement has had a happy side effect—arrest numbers are down. Forget headlines like “Occupy Wall Street Movement Reports 80 Arrested Today in Protests.” Today, they read more like “3 Arrested in Manhattan as March Turns Into a Melee.”

In addition, the hideous outbreak of murders, rapes and disease infestations at Occupy camps will not be missed.

The collapse of the Occupy ethos is even more pronounced in our nation’s capital. The much-vaunted Buffett Rule went down in defeat yesterday, effectively killing the only piece of legislation arguably begot by the Occupy movement.

While a majority of Americans supported the Buffett Rule, it’s not clear that OWS did anything to move the dial on tax reform generally. In fact, the most recent CBS News/New York Times poll shows that fewer people today believe that the rich need to pay more than they did last year (55% compared with last year’s 65%).

Ultimately, OWS failed because it didn’t channel all the excitement it generated into political action. In a democracy it takes “50% plus one” of the populace to bring about change. In fact, OWS earned the opposite of “50% plus one” among the citizenry.

The movement could have ended differently. Whether conservatives like it or not, the main thrust of the Occupy movement dovetailed well with the feelings around the country that something was amiss after the taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailouts were followed by a jobless recovery.

We are fortunate, then, that most Americans only flirted briefly with OWS. Doubtless, many were turned off by the “I want a bailout, too” mentality of the protesters, not to mention the sheer absurdity of their demands. A popular demand was forgiveness of all consumer debt—an untenable idea to an increasingly deficit conscious public.

Its consensus-driven organizational structure made OWS’s mad gallop to the fringe inevitable. Effective organizations require tangible goals and good leadership. OWS had neither.

OWS had its moment, but let it pass on by. No amount of “spring training” can bring it back to life.

Fix contributor Anthony Dent is a student at the University of North Carolina.

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An editorial in today’s Daily Tar Heel lauds a recent decision by the Union Board of Directors at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to create a “meditation room” almost solely due to lobbying efforts by Muslim students. This is a decision I don’t particularly disagree with — the editorial does mention the fact that, since Muslims pray five times a day, it’s harder to be able to consistently rent a room each day for that purpose. As a liberal arts university, true diversity ought to be upheld; however, true diversity does not imply catering to one religion while not allowing similar privileges to other religious faiths.

Let’s be honest here and call a spade a spade. The Union might defend the “meditation room” as non-denominational since it is accessible to all faiths, but it includes a wash-basin for the explicit purpose of facilitating the Islamic ritual of Wudu. If the Union created a similar room with an optional crucifix lying around, critics would rightly call the “it’s accessible to all religions” defense a sham.

Of course, if this room were created due to the demands of and with certain features exclusively for a Christian group, the outcry would be instantaneous and overwhelming. We already saw the criticisms of the Christmas trees in Wilson and Davis libraries. The associate provost in charge of the University libraries gave the reason for removing the trees by arguing that “it didn’t seem right to celebrate one set of customs.”

But three short years later, university officials decided that a Muslim prayer room is acceptable. The default secularism usually upheld by university officials — an Americanized laïcité — is soulless in its failure to recognize the very human commitment to a higher being. A Muslim prayer room is an important step in embracing the pluralism every politically-correct liberal allegedly supports. But given past precedents, the university is choosing to institute a pluralism of favored (i.e., non-Western) religions, not actual pluralism. While this double standard is unsurprising, it is, nonetheless, grotesque.

Anthony Dent blogs at the Carolina Review Daily. He is a contributor to The College Fix.

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The budget proposed by Republican leadership in the N.C. General Assembly has come under attack recently because it reduces the allocation to Governor’s School by 100 percent — completely cutting its public support.

For the uninitiated, Governor’s School is a six-week, summer enrichment program for academically gifted public school students. Under Democratic leadership, Governor’s School has already been forced to charge tuition, but it’s not nearly enough to fund all operations; hence the uproar.

I actually attended Governor’s School and concur that the experience was enriching and intellectually challenging–but that doesn’t mean we should continue to fund it.

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Snoop Dogg is coming to UNC and the feminists are up in arms. (Although when are they not up in arms?)

Apparently basing their event on the little known addendum to “Deeds, Not Words” — “Say No to Snoop Dogg!”– feminists are trying to get the university to ban Snoop Dogg’s concert (background on the concert itself here).

The feminists are arguing that Snoop Dogg’s lyrics are sexist, his actions are reprehensible, and he’s starred in pornography. All correct. Aside from his “Greetings Loved Ones- Let’s take a journey” intro to “California Gurls,” I’m not really much of a fan. And I do agree that his actions are reprehensible–but that doesn’t mean he ought to be banned from UNC.

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