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Utah State Student Leaders Debate Mandatory Health Insurance

Utah State Student Leaders Debate Mandatory Health Insurance

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LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- Utah State University student leaders are debating a proposal that would require all students to enroll in the school's student health plan.

Currently USU's plan is optional -- and the university has used that as a selling point with prospective students.

The school could only mandate insurance if administrators sought a policy change through the state Board of Regents.

But passing the proposed student government plan would send a message to administrators, some student leaders say.

USU's student health director Jim Davis said the requirement would aid in student retention because those hit by illness or accidents wouldn't have to leave school and work to pay medical bills. Nor would students have to skip medical treatment because they lacked insurance or the ability to pay, he said.

Academic Senate President Michelle Lundberg, however, said she sees little support for the proposal among students. She's also concerned about costs.

USU's student health plan costs $2,136 per year for individuals and $7,454 for married students.

Higher enrollment would lower premiums 10 to 25 percent in the first year and would continue to drop, Davis said. He estimates the costs would drop to about $600.

"Students will have to examine their finances and set aside money for this," he said. "I think they will be willing to do that when they see the benefits of having insurance and how this program can be done."

Nationwide some private colleges and universities began to mandate health insurance in 1991. Eight states now require insurance at their public higher education institutions.

Provo's Brigham Young University, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, mandated health insurance in 1989, student health director Rulon Barlow said. The plan costs $400 annually.

A University of Utah plan established in 1994 was scuttled in 1997, after school officials said the mandate had led some students to enroll elsewhere, student health director Jason Gillman said.

Students leaders reinstated the policy in 2006, but university administrators have yet to make it a condition of enrollment.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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