MSUM considers insurance mandate
Scott Garman doesn't want his fellow students to choose between health care and textbooks. That's why the Minnesota State University Moorhead student senator supports a proposal that would mandate health insurance for all students. MSUM is consid...
Scott Garman doesn't want his fellow students to choose between health care and textbooks.
That's why the Minnesota State University Moorhead student senator supports a proposal that would mandate health insurance for all students.
MSUM is considering becoming the first campus in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to have such a requirement on an experimental basis.
Students who do not have health insurance would pay about $960 a year for a plan administered through MSUM.
That's cheaper than the $1,100 students currently pay for optional health insurance through MSUM.
And the coverage would be better, with a maximum benefit of $100,000, rather than the current $25,000.
If insurance is required, students could use financial aid to pay for it.
Eleven percent of MSUM students are uninsured, according to a 2007 survey by the University of Minnesota Boynton Health Center.
Garman, a graduate student, said those who are uninsured often have to make tough choices. One student he knows had to pick between buying a tank of gas and taking her ill daughter to the doctor.
Garman and a majority of MSUM student senators have endorsed a pilot program.
Others, including Justin Norris, oppose the plan because they view it as another financial burden for students.
"We are really afraid this is going to drive people out of school," Norris said.
Fifty-eight percent of students who voted in the recent student government election opposed the health insurance proposal. Seven percent of students voted in the election.
Warren Wiese, MSUM's vice president for student affairs, said administrators are still weighing whether to go forward with the pilot program.
One benefit of requiring health insurance is that it's been found to improve student retention rates, Wiese said.
"If a student is uninsured and they have some kind of medical issue, they can easily be unable to finance their education any longer because suddenly they have a lot of medical bills," Wiese said.
Nationally, more colleges and universities are requiring health insurance, said Dana Mills, chairman of the student health insurance task force for the American College Health Association.
An ACHA survey of 250 colleges and universities found that 79 percent of private four-year colleges have some kind of mandate, as do 38 percent of public four-year colleges.
"The whole point is to have students be healthy, attend class and be successful students," Mills said.
The University of Minnesota has such a policy.
Colleges in the North Dakota University System, Concordia College and Minnesota State Community and Technical College do not have a requirement.
Officials with MnSCU, the system that governs MSUM, have talked about piloting a health insurance mandate at one of the seven state university campuses for several years, Wiese said.
In past years, though, the Minnesota State University Student Association has opposed a requirement because of the added cost to students, said JJ Jouppi, MSUSA's executive director.
This spring, MSUSA delegates decided not to contest a pilot program at MSUM.
"We wanted to at least give it a try see how it would work first and then evaluate," Jouppi said.
One reason MSUSA was OK with the proposal is that MSUM plans to use a "soft waiver," meaning students can opt out if they tell the university they already have health insurance.
With a "hard waiver" program, which is what the U of M has, the university verifies the students' insurance information.
Thirty-year-old Norris said many students who, like himself, are older than average and not covered under their parents' policies are especially worried about this proposal.
"Everybody is having to tighten their belts," Norris said. "Putting forward a new program on people would be an added cost burden."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590