Simpson to require healthcare coverage for all students

by Emily SchettlerStaff Writer

Starting next school year, all Simpson students will be required to have health insurance.

Currently, the school requires proof of insurance from all athletes and international students. Beginning in the fall of 2008, all full-time students must show proof of insurance or sign up for the policy offered by Simpson.

Mimi Bartley, director of human services, is a member of a committee comprised of students and faculty whose job is to choose which plan will become the requirement.

Bartley thinks students should be insured so people won’t have to worry about the expenses in a time of emergency.

“Knowing everyone has sound medical coverage eliminates the worry for the students as well as the college of what to do if a student had a medical need and no means to pay for treatment,” Bartley said. “None of us know when we’re going to become ill or suffer an injury. With the increasing cost of medical care and prescription drugs, having no coverage is not a very safe [option].”

Jim Thorius, vice president for student development and dean of students, said the committee is currently looking at different policy offerings for next year.

“It’s primarily an issue to make sure that students have ample healthcare access available,” Thorius said.

According to Thorius, Simpson is one of few schools throughout Iowa that hasn’t made health insurance mandatory.

“As we explored this issue with schools across the country and particularly those in the same state, we’re probably the exception,” Thorius said. “Most schools have already implemented a mandatory proof of insurance.”

Right now, the school offers a plan administered through Student Assurance Services and underwritten by Columbian Life Insurance Company. For $450, a student can get major medical coverage for illness or injury.

Bartley said they are looking into a more extensive plan than the one Simpson provides now.

“The current plan design is more for catastrophic care,” Bartley said. “This is one of the reasons other options are being looked at, to enable us to offer a plan with more comprehensive care.”

Thorius also said the new policy may provide more options for students, such as prescription drug coverage.

“We’re looking at a range of plans that have options that students could be a part of the decision making process,” Thorius said.

Thorius estimated 5-10 percent of Simpson students are uninsured.

“When we’ve surveyed students in the past, the responses we’ve gotten back are that somewhere between 90-to-95 percent of students say they have their own insurance,” Thorius said.

Senior Chelsea Burns lost her health insurance about nine months ago when the provider in her family was let go from her job. Burns said it worries her, but she’s taking steps to stay healthy.

“Who doesn’t worry about accidents happening?” Burns said. “I practice a lot of preventative methods, such as a healthy diet and exercise, to help ensure my health.”

Burns said she knew there were insurance plans for athletes at Simpson, but she was unaware the coverage was available to other students as well. Still, she’s concerned about the price and thinks requiring students to have insurance could place a burden on them and their families.

“I cannot afford to pay for my own insurance,” Burns said. “I’ve looked into it. I think it would be unrealistic to make that a requirement.”

Bartley said financial assistance could probably be arranged for those who would be unable to pay the cost of coverage.

Simpson’s coverage does cover students for an entire year, through summer and winter breaks. Typically the policies run from mid-August to mid-August. Bartley also notes that students can purchase a policy at any time. However, if something like a lost job causes them to lose their current coverage.

Thorius said they have already had interest from parents who’d like to purchase the coverage for their students.

“We have found over the years that we’re getting more calls from families saying, ‘What’s the cost of your insurance and what’s it cover?'” Thorius said. “They’re trying to make the decision to keep their son or daughter on their family plan or buy this plan. What might provide better coverage and what be more economical for them as a family? The bottom line is we want to make sure that every student has health insurance. We require it for all student athletes. We require it for all international students. Now we’re going to look at requiring it for everyone.”