Headache for some, insurance for all

by Peter KaspariNews Writer

For the first time in the history of Simpson College, it is now required of every attending student to have health insurance.

The decision to require health insurance for all students was made in the spring semester of last year as a result of work done by students, health services and the campus administration.

According to Jim Thorius, vice president for student development, Simpson was in the minority of colleges by not requiring it.

“Health care is an issue that affects students and can bring costs to students who are ill and can interfere with their ability to complete their work,” Thorius said. “We decided we needed to find a way for students to get health insurance.”

Rita Audlehelm, director of health services, agreed with Thorius on having every student covered under a plan.

“We saw students without health insurance, and it’s a barrier to them getting the care they needed,” Audlehelm said. “To get their education, they need to be healthy.”

Audlehelm said the new insurance provider, Aetna Student Health, is “a lot better than our old system.”

Thorius estimated that approximately 96 percent of Simpson’s students had health insurance prior to the requirement that all must have it. For those who didn’t, Simpson had their own health insurance plan.

In years past, coverage was only required of athletes and international students.

This year, students were automatically enrolled and had to waive the school’s insurance in order to erase the charge.

Many other Iowa colleges require their students to have health insurance.

Audlehelm said there are many advantages to students having health insurance.

“I don’t want them to compromise their health or education because they don’t have health insurance,” Audlehelm said.

As with most new policies, the transition from not requiring health insurance to having it required for all students had some setbacks. However, things are now back to normal.

“Everyone has been really helpful,” Audlehelm said.

In order to waive Simpson’s insurance plan, students were required to fill out an online form.

Three requirements were put in place in order for the waiver to go through. The first was that the student’s existing plan needed to be able to provide for care, including mental health, in the Indianola and Des Moines area. It also needed to be valid through the 2008-2009 academic year. The final requirement was that the signer agreed to pay all fees that were not covered by health insurance.

If a student happens to change their status during the school year, they need to inform Simpson College of the change. In addition, the waiver will need to be filled out every year, as it is only valid for the current academic year.

Thorius said requiring health insurance for all students has had some interesting reactions from the community.

“We had several families notice that our insurance was more cost-effective than their current provider,” Thorius said. “They ended up switching providers.”

Junior Sara Crouse feels that overall, the program is a good idea, but may have been an unexpected cost to current students.

“As far as I know, I don’t think students without health insurance were prepared with this information far enough in advance to make arrangements for the fall,” Crouse said. “This policy seems to be beneficial to the campus as whole, although there may be some issues along the way.”

Overall, the people who helped make Simpson’s health insurance requirement a reality said they are very grateful that it has worked out.

Audlehelm said everybody on campus was involved in making this a success, all for the health of the entire student body.

“I just appreciate everyone on campus helping out,” Audlehelm said. “It’s a full campus effort. I don’t want students to come in here sick without money.”