Students consider U health insurance

Less than half of eligible students opt for the University’s health insurance plan.

While the costs of tuition and other school-related expenses continue to increase, some college students might choose to save money and forego health insurance.

Students at the University, however, don’t have that option.

The University has required students to have health insurance since the early 1970s, said David Golden, the University’s director of public health, marketing and program development. He said most private schools also require health insurance for all students.

Golden said University students have one of the best plans in the country.

Students under the school’s plan receive 100 percent unlimited preventive care for services obtained at Boynton Health Service. For services received elsewhere, BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota pays for 80 percent of the costs.

University students pay $680 per semester for coverage. If coverage is purchased in the spring, the student will be covered until the third week of August, even if he or she already has graduated.

Students may opt out of the student plan if they are on their parents’ insurance or if their job offers insurance.

Susann Jackson, director of student health benefits, said the University provides and sponsors health insurance for 11,200 students, although 32,000 students are eligible to be on the plan. There are also about 900 dependents on the school plan, she said.

Jackson said 96 percent of students on the plan have obtained medical assistance.

Many plans colleges offer students are not adequate, and some “shouldn’t even be legal,” Golden said.

Some plans have loopholes, including nonpayment if the person has been drinking and low maximum benefit payouts, Golden said.

“You could be on the $250,000 cap plan and end up still owing tens of thousands of dollars from a car accident or something,” he said.

The University’s plan is capped at $3 million.

Casey Link, an applied economics junior, said he definitely would have health insurance, even if it weren’t required.

Although he said he thinks insurance is a good idea, he said he doesn’t think everyone should be required to have it.

“If they’re living on campus they should (have insurance) for liability reasons, but if not, then no,” Link said.

Link, who is on his mother’s plan, said he has used his insurance to pay for dental work and stitches on his forehead. He would not have received care, not even the stitches, had he not had health insurance, he said.

Advertising senior Nicole Gonzalez said she is on her parents’ insurance plan and uses it to treat her allergies. She said insurance is important to have, and she would buy the University’s plan if she didn’t already have it.

“If not full-blown sick, there are still the little things you need,” she said.

Some schools, including members of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, require only international students to have health insurance.

Heather Oehrlein, the MnSCU student insurance advocate, said the reason is that some international students could rack up thousands of dollars in medical bills and leave the country.

Those unpaid bills can lead to bad relations with the school and the community, she said.

Golden said the University’s plan is good because insurance is mandatory, and therefore there are many more people in the plan, reducing the premium and increasing the benefits.

Yan Yan Wu, an accounting senior, said health insurance is a good idea but students shouldn’t be forced to have it.

“A healthy lifestyle is more important than health insurance,” she said.

Wu acknowledged that one can’t always avoid accidents, and said if someone chooses not to have health insurance and something happens, then that person must live with the consequences.

Wu said she would probably not have health insurance if it was not mandatory.

Oehrlein said medical costs and coverage are getting more expensive, and an unexpected accident could financially strap the student and their education might stop.

“If something medical happens, they’re done,” she said.

– Freelance Editor Nina Petersen-Perlman welcomes comments at [email protected]