Insurance Bill Spurs Debate

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Jan 312007
 
Authors: James Holt

A heated debate rose Wednesday around a proposal that would allow public universities to require health care coverage for graduate and professional students.

Peter Dorhout, vice provost for graduate affairs, presented House Bill 1026 to about 30 graduate students in the Lory Student Center.

“We need to provide adequate health insurance for our students,” he said. “The bill removes a roadblock to negotiating for better healthcare.”

The CSU Graduate Student Council (GSC) first approached Dorhout about student health insurance after having found that CSU is currently the only public research university in Colorado without mandatory student health insurance.

The council established a student-based committee to study the current health-care plan and recommend changes.

“Health insurance premiums at CSU have risen by 50 percent to levels 23 percent higher than those at peer institutions that require health insurance,” according to literature provided by the Graduate School. “Only 11 percent of graduate students voluntarily purchased the CSU student health insurance plan.”

Currently, Colorado higher education institutions cannot require their graduate students to mandate health insurance for any students. HB 1026 would change the wording of the current statute to allow such a mandate for graduate students.

Dorhout admitted that he really didn’t know if the bill would benefit students. To pass the bill would be taking a risk, but it would give the school flexibility in negotiating a better healthcare plan for its students.

“Our goal is to make things better for our students,” Dorhout said.

Any plan CSU might require would be a “hard-waiver” style plan that would exempt students with comparable coverage from another source. Also, the plan would be “fazed in,” applying only to newly registered graduate students, and would give students the two options depending on their degree of need.

GSC members pointed out that many students rely on scholarships and financial aid and cannot afford health insurance on their own. If the bill passed, CSU could then include health insurance as part of its financial aid.

Rep. Kevin Lundberg of District 49 attended the meeting, saying he wanted to understand students’ opinions about the bill before deciding how to vote on it. Lunderg went so far as to take a poll by asking for raised hands.

“I’m anxious to hear from students,” he said.

Reactions to the bill were as intense as they were varied. Some felt that the university has no right to determine what would be an “adequate” health care plan for its students.

“I’m pleading with you,” said Chris Eikenberg, a disabled Education and Human Resource Studies student seeking her master’s degree. “Do not put your university in a position to become insurance brokers for you.”

Others were in favor of the bill.

“There’s really no way to move in a positive direction without passing the bill,” said Seth Anthony, a graduate chemistry student (and occasional Collegian columnist).

Dorhout encourages students on both sides of the issue to take time to be involved in the decision-making process.

“Regardless of whether this bill passes or not, I want you to be connected to the Graduate Student Council,” Dorhout said.

The next Graduate Student Council meeting is set for Monday, Feb. 5 at 5:30 p.m. in rooms 213-15 of the Lory Student Center room.

Staff writer James Holt can be reached at news@collegian.com.

The results of Lundberg’s poll were 6 in support, 10 opposed and 2 undecided.

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