Health insurance: A right or luxury?

A survey found that 38 percent of 4-year institutions require health insurance.

by Maureen Landsverk

âÄúYou donâÄôt need it âÄôtil you doâÄù seems to be the age-old adage that accompanies the classic pro-coverage argument for health insurance. Sure, when youâÄôre healthy, surviving without regular checkups, the occasional knee-tap reflex test seems pointless. Why get your health insured when you have your health? The answer, of course, stems from the same reason most mildly intelligent people insure their cars, their houses and anything else they deem irreplaceable: things change. Expecting the worst isnâÄôt pessimistic; low expectations can put a healthy check on the economy. Even more, to be prepared one must first sense the potential for danger. We canâÄôt afford to be left in the lurch. In the real world not choreographed by MTV, tornadoes strike, cars crash and an average of 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with the influenza virus each year. A student enrolled at the University of Minnesota with six or more credits should know the school policy. Unless covered by another plan, registration for the Student Health Benefit Plan is required. The primary reason for this policy, says Director of Student Health Benefits Susann Jackson, is that complications that arise from being uninsured are the most common causes for dropping out of school. A recent instance arose at the University of Texas, a public university where health insurance is optional. When UT student Kate SimpsonâÄôs health coverage lapsed, she made the decision to remain uninsured. Shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with severe hyperthyroid disorder, a pre-existing condition that prevented her from obtaining coverage later. She has temporarily discontinued her education due to worsened symptoms. In addition to retention rates, colleges also cite the health of the student population and lowered costs on local hospitals and clinics. The University healthcare option, offered through Blue Cross Blue Shield at $907 per semester, can be compared to the BCBS individual plans, which require a deductible fee of up to $15,000. The plan, however, may see future changes in light of the recent healthcare reform bill stalled in Congress. The latest version, passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve of 2009, would limit profits of all private insurers, BCBS included, by ordering 80 to 85 cents of every premium dollar be spent on health care. If enacted, the bill would prevent companies from denying coverage to U.S. citizens based on pre-existing conditions, eliminating situations like SimpsonâÄôs. It would also subsidize private coverage for low- to middle-class families, making insurance options more affordable and potentially nullifying the issue of choosing to live uninsured because of high expenses. Though mandatory health care insurance is a relatively new concept considered unconventional and unnecessary by many institutions, it has the obvious benefit of ensuring the health and wellness of the student population, which has been proven to correlate with better academic performance. At an estimated 62 percent, the majority of public four-year colleges have yet to necessitate health insurance. Joyce Roosz, Purdue University student insurance supervisor, points to the current economic climate as a primary deterrent in requiring coverage of their students. âÄúStudents are sometimes just having difficulty getting money for tuition. Even though we think it’s very important and encourage students to have coverage through their parents âĦ I just don’t think this is the time to pursue [mandatory health insurance].âÄù The University conducts random audits on about 15 percent of the student population, depending on the total amount of time and funding spent on the procedure, Jackson reports. The checks usually catch a few hundred students without health insurance, though the numbers have reached over 600 per semester in the past. The assessments will begin in less than a few weeks; those found without coverage will be charged a nonrefundable semester fee for the student health care plan. Of all the priorities wrapped up in academic success, health is paramount. Time and time again, the uninsured and underinsured alike are given the short end of the stick when youth and vigor prove inadequate. With money valued more than ever, the most worthwhile investment may in fact be yourself and, in turn, your future. Maureen Landsverk welcomes comments at [email protected]