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New policy at Michigan State University requires student health coverage

A new Michigan State University policy requiring freshmen to either have health insurance or pay to join a plan through the school has drawn some opposition from state lawmakers.

The East Lansing school is the first public university in Michigan to mandate coverage. The school said that about 25 percent of public universities nationwide have the same requirement.

Republicans in the state Legislature have set a Feb. 15 hearing to discuss the policy from the state’s second-largest public university. Michigan State University Provost Kim Wilcox and Associate Provost June Youats are expected to testify at the hearing.

“It’s a one-size-fits-all plan,” said state Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant. “The university is saying, `You are going to have this.’ This is mandated coverage.” Michigan State University said it is trying to protect students who might have to choose between paying for medical treatment or college. Freshmen and other students new to the school last fall have until Feb. 29 to offer proof of insurance or be enrolled in a plan.

“We know that students without coverage often don’t go to a doctor when they are ill,” said school Board of Trustees member Faylene Owen. “This means their health is endangered and that their ability to learn and graduate on time is adversely affected. “So to protect student health and to advance their education, requiring health coverage makes sense.”

If students don’t have insurance they will get the option of buying one of several plans. If they don’t choose one, the school will enroll them in a plan from Aetna. That plan costs $940 for the spring semester and about $1,500 for the full academic year. Michigan State estimates that about 90 percent of its incoming students have insurance.

Other public universities in Michigan recommend that students have health insurance and offer options to buy coverage, but don’t mandate it. Michigan State University sophomore Tim English, of Grand Rapids, said he thinks the university’s mandate could be beneficial. “It sounds like it’s pretty cheap,” he said. “I could see some people switching over just to save money.”

But junior Marissa Thomas, however, worries that the requirement might cause problems. “It would be easy to forget to tell them you have insurance,” said Thomas, of Grand Rapids. “Then you’d end up paying for two different insurances.”

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