Plan to make health coverage mandatory unpopular with students

Daily Sundial

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Attempts to make health insurance mandatory for all students attending a college or a university, in order to reduce large one-time bills, have raised concerns among some students, who say it would only add another cost to their already increasing tuition bill.

According to Stephen Beckley, who runs a Colorado-based consulting firm that assists colleges and universities with student health programs, about 19 percent of college students nationwide are uninsured.

It is the responsibility of colleges and universities to provide adequate insurance for students, he said.

But there are many students older than 24 who may still be in college and could be uninsured, Beckley said.

While some students are insured through employer-sponsored health plans from their parents or their spouses, the numbers of these types of insured students are steadily falling, Beckley said.

A much smaller number of students are insured through their own employers, which requires them to work a certain amount of hours in order to qualify, Beckley said.

Grace Aprilia, senior marketing major, said she was insured through CSUN for one semester during her freshman year but switched over to her mother’s plan because it offered better benefits that she did not have to pay for.

Aprilia said she received better coverage because, although it was not very expensive through the school, the benefits were very limited. She said she agrees that everyone should have insurance, but does not feel it should be made mandatory in order to attend a college or university.

“I know how expensive it is, (and) I think it should still be a choice,” Aprilia said.

Students are responsible enough to understand the risk of not having insurance, but should not be forced to have it when tuition is already hard for them to pay, she said.

Students might be more likely to purchase health insurance through their schools if the schools offered better benefits, Aprilia said. Better benefits would lure students without having to make it mandatory, she said.

But Beckley said that although there is a fear that the extra costs may push students to attend other colleges and universities, the University of California system is already required students to provide health insurance as a condition of enrollment.

This requirement has not resulted in lower university enrollment.

The CSU system is now looking very closely into the idea of mandatory health coverage, especially since it has not resulted in a drop in enrollment at the UCs.

But the different demographic of students who attend CSU schools might lead to different results, Aprilia said.

Those who attend CSUN for example, might come from different financial backgrounds than those attending USC or a UC campus.

Beckley said there is a huge need for mental health care among college students that CSUs do not provide, except to a very limited extent, such as a few short sessions at the counseling centers on campuses.

Making insurance mandatory would allow the schools to facilitate referrals to facilities off campus for people seeking additional health coverage that cannot be provided on campus, Beckley said.

“Having a large uninsured college population creates an unhealthy and unsafe environment,” Beckley said.

But students are left having to deal with expensive medical bills later if something was to happen and they are not insured, Beckley said.

“Many don’t appreciate the risk,” Beckley said.

College students do not realize they are just as likely to need insurance as other people because they are so active, Beckley said.

Miguel Garcia, political science major, said he has not been insured since he was taken off his parents’ plan a year ago. Now that he is independent, he said he cannot afford to pay for insurance with all the other bills he has.

But Garcia said he does not believe insurance should be mandatory in order for students to attend college. It would place another obstacle for students to attend a college or university, he said.

“It’s not my priority, but I understand it’s important,” he said. “It’s too expensive. That’s the only reason.”