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Michigan State University to require students have health insurance

Come Feb. 29, Michigan State University freshmen and other students new to the school last fall will be required to have health insurance.

The move is a push by university officials who say students with health coverage are more likely to seek medical treatment, in turn, leaving them healthier and allowing them to keep up with their studies and graduate on time. The school said about 25 percent of public universities nationwide has the same requirement.

But there are some opponents of the change. State Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck, said tacking on additional costs to students and their families is not justifiable. He will sponsor a meeting of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education next week, in which Michigan State University officials will be asked to testify on a new policy.

“The hearing is important because this mandated health insurance can raise the cost of college by roughly $1,500 a year,” Genetski said in a news release. “A college education is expensive enough as it is, and this represents one more barrier to entry for Michigan’s tuition-paying families. The hearing will take place on Feb. 15 in the Capitol Building.

Hope College Dean of Students Richard Frost said the college started requiring full-time students to carry health insurance about eight years ago. “The issue for us was the same issue that Michigan State is running into,” he said. “They’re having more of their students coming in uninsured. And healthy students equate to more students in the classroom engaged and participating.”

Hope now includes the cost a HopeHealth Benefit as part of its tuition. The plan covers the cost of most services provided at the school’s on-campus health center. Frost said the Hope Health Center functions like a regular doctor’s office and is meant for students to receive treatment for common illnesses or medical conditions.

“Everyone has that,” Frost said of HopeHealth. “But above that, we’ve also said you must also have health insurance.” Students must show proof of insurance or they are referred to a student health insurance plan offered by United Health Care. Grand Valley State University spokeswoman Dottie Barnes said GVSU does not require students to carry health insurance, but makes a private insurance plan available for purchase.

Columbian Life Insurance Company underwrites the plan, which provides substantial accident and sickness coverage to students for $625 a year. Barnes said Grand Valley has no plans to change the policy at this time.

The Associated Press reported that, with the policy change, MSU is trying to protect students who might have to choose between paying for medical treatment or college. If students don’t choose a plan, MSU will enroll them in a plan from Aetna, which costs $940 for the spring semester or $1,500 for the year.

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