The student loan debt crisis in the United States continues to grow with recent statistics showing that borrowers collectively owe nearly $1.6 trillion in student loan debt. This includes roughly 1.8 million people in the Greater Philadelphia region who collectively owe approximately $60.2 billion. To help alleviate the stress associated with debt, Independence Blue Cross (Independence) now offers members access to a program to help them reduce student loans and improve their financial well-being. Philadelphia-based GradFin is now available at no cost to Independence consumer plan members and commercial group customers.
“During the last year, financial stress has increased due to the economic impact of the pandemic, and that can impact the overall well-being of our members. Our goal in offering GradFin is to help our members and their families pay off their student loans faster and begin saving for a bright future,” said Brian Lobley, Independence chief operating officer and president of Health Markets.
“The GradFin program is another way to demonstrate Independence’s on-going commitment to finding new benefits that address our members’ whole health,” continued Lobley.
Independence is among the first health insurers to team up with GradFin and the first Blue plan to implement the program. The Independence GradFin program is unique in that its services are available to Independence members and those in their household, even if the household members are not enrolled in the insurer’s medical benefits. Similarly, for commercial group customers GradFin is a value-added service, so even if an employee does not elect to receive their medical benefits through Independence, they and their family still have access to GradFin services.
“We are excited to partner with Independence to provide a comprehensive solution to enable their members and their families to reduce their student loan debt by refinancing and consolidating their student loans,” said Brian Walters, GradFin president.
GradFin Core Student Loan Services
- Student Loan Financial Education. The foundation of GradFin’s student loan benefit program is the free personalized one-on-one student loan consultations, webinars, and on-location “Town Hall” presentations to brainstorm faster and more efficient solutions to pay off members’ loans, while also focusing on saving money for the future.
- Student Loan Solutions. GradFin’s consultants will analyze loans and work with over 10 lenders to provide a comprehensive solution to reduce student loan debt by refinancing and consolidating student loans. Ultimately, GradFin’s mission is as follows – to provide a faster and more efficient path for members to become debt-free, while saving thousands of dollars over the term of their loan(s).
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Membership. GradFin works with members to help them comply with the PSLF program by enrolling their loans in the PSLF program, verifying their employment, annually certifying their income-based repayment plan, and auditing their “qualified payments.”
The Philadelphia region is home to a vast number of government and non-profit organizations – from hospitals to colleges, universities, K-12 schools, and law enforcement – making it a natural fit for public service employees looking to manage their student loans through the PSLF program. GradFin’s PSLF Membership is designed to keep borrowers in compliance with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and statistics show that it works. On their own, PSLF borrowers have a success rate of under five percent. However, GradFin PSLF specialists stay on top of the latest legislation to ensure that PSLF borrowers stay in compliance and on track with their qualifying payments. In the two years since their program launched, GradFin has seen a 100 percent success rate keeping PSLF borrowers in compliance.
In addition to GradFin, Independence also offers The College Tuition Benefit® (CTB) as part of its comprehensive health plans. Through CTB, members can earn SAGE Scholars Tuition Rewards® points to help offset the financial burdens of paying for a four-year undergraduate degree at colleges and universities nationwide. When it launched in 2016, Independence was the only health insurance carrier in Pennsylvania and the first Blue plan nationally to extend this unique opportunity to its customers.