Feb 212007
Authors: Jenna Lynn Ellis

Two CSU students will testify today in the Colorado Senate Education Committee in support of House Bill 1026, a measure that would make it possible for CSU to require graduate students to have health insurance.

HB 1026 would amend the current Colorado statute to read that an institute of higher education cannot require undergraduates, leaving the option open for graduates, to purchase healthcare insurance.

If passed the bill would give CSU the option of requiring graduate students to purchase health insurance, something Luke Ragland and Nathan Woltman support.

“Basically, the legislation would put CSU on even ground with other Colorado universities,” said Woltman, a graduate student and Associated Students of CSU senator. “When it comes to having money to help pay grad students for health insurance costs, the other Colorado schools are way ahead of us in what they offer to their grad students.”

Because health insurance currently cannot be required of any student by a higher education institution, CSU graduate students are ineligible for what is known as “fringe” on grants from federal research organizations.

“When the National Institute of Health gives a grant for a lab to do research, the grant can only pay for student and employee heath insurance costs if they are required by the university,” Woltman said.

Woltman said that the bill would allow graduate students to negotiate with insurance companies in ways that they currently can’t because of the restrictions on requiring heath insurance.

Opponents to the bill argue that the university has no right to require anyone to have health insurance.

“The graduate student council approached the university about health insurance and Dr. Peter Dorhout (vice provost for Graduate Affairs) has been very willing to work with the graduate student council to try to find something that both the administration and the students can agree upon,” said Woltman, a member of the council.

ASCSU Legislative Affairs Director Luke Ragland said he will testify in support of HB 1026. The ASCSU Senate passed a resolution last week officially supporting the bill.

“I will be representing ASCSU and making the committee aware of our stance,” Ragland said.

Larimer County Democratic Rep. John Kefalas and Sen. Bob Bacon are the legislative sponsors.

“This is a good step for graduate students,” Kefalas said.

The bill passed in the House Feb. 5 in a 37-27 vote.

“All in all, I’m in support of the changes, as are the vast majority of the graduate students I’ve spoken to,” said Woltman.

Staff writer Jenna Lynn Ellis can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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