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Published: Saturday, 3/26/2005

BGSU eyes mandatory health coverage

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Although it initially could cost them more money, student government leaders at Bowling Green State University are backing a proposal to make health insurance mandatory for all students.

The proposal, approved recently by both undergraduate and graduate student leaders, is viewed as a way of helping - not hurting - students on campus, said Alex Wright, undergraduate student president.

"This would help students because it's a very affordable plan and a good plan," Mr. Wright said. "A large portion of our campus doesn't have health insurance now, and if something happens, they would have to leave campus."

BGSU is one of a growing number of schools eyeing mandatory health insurance policies that call for students to show proof of their own insurance - or otherwise buy into a university provided health insurance plan for an annual fee.

Officials said the university's purpose is twofold: Insurance not only would be required, but health officials would educate students to make sure they are not underinsured elsewhere.

A similar system has been in place for two years at the University of Toledo. The annual premium for students rose 15 percent this year to $1,221. As a result, some students have complained about the cost, including one who recently passed out flyers at a board of trustees meeting protesting the mandatory plan.

Ron Speier, associate vice president and dean of students at UT, said leaders next month intend to present the board of trustees a plan for their approval regarding next year's health insurance fees for students.

While he could not yet discuss specifics of the plan, Mr. Speier said the cost is expected to decrease. The university previously rebid its health care package in order to lower the cost for students.

At BGSU, undergraduate and graduate students would be impacted if a new insurance plan is approved, while international students - who already are required by law to purchase insurance - only would see changes with the possible addition of related information online.

Dr. Glenn Egelman, director and physician in chief for health services at BGSU, said the new policy is eyed because of concern about the number of uninsured or underinsured students on campus, who could be forced to leave BGSU if they are hit with high medical bills.

Requiring students to have insurance is seen as a retention issue, he added.

Exact costs of the insurance plan are still unknown, but the policy - BGSU currently offers insurance for students - would be lower with a greater number of participants.

Dr. Egelman described the proposal as a "work in progress" and said it will be discussed on April 1 by members of a campus health services advisory committee. If approved then, it would proceed to the president's staff and later to the board of trustees, possibly in June.

The new requirements would not go into effect until the 2006-2007 academic year. Additional input would be solicited across campus.

"We need to talk to people about the best way to implement it," Dr. Egelman said. "We would involve students in the implementation process."

Contact Kim Bates at:

kimbates@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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