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Student health coverage options

Published (3/9/2012)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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Students attending the University of Minnesota are required to have health coverage; however, the plans need to meet criteria similar to the university plan that was crafted with student input and has no deductible and caps out-of-pocket expenses at $2,000 annually.

The mandate to make sure students are adequately covered is well-intentioned, but can create a hardship, according to Brett Rabe, a nontraditional student in the School of Veterinary Medicine.

As a parent of three children and no longer on an employer’s health plan, he got medical coverage through the American Veterinary Medical Association at a $3,500 annual cost difference from the university’s plan. He sought a waiver from the university, however it was denied because the plan did not meet the university’s criteria.

Rabe wrote his concern to Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth).

“ It seems frivolous to me that the university is absolutely insisting that I spend $14,000 more over the next four years for coverage that isn’t even as good as what the AVMA is offering,” he stated.

Anderson sponsors HF2322, which states that if the university requires students to have health coverage, they must also allow a waiver and allow students to select from a broader range of options, including plans offered by associations.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system has no similar requirement.

The bill was held over by the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee March 6 for possible omnibus bill inclusion. A companion, SF2329 sponsored by Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka), awaits action by the Senate Higher Education Committee.

Sue Jackson, director of student health benefits at the university, said Rabe’s plan was denied a waiver because there was a significant issue with the mental health and prescription coverage, and deductible levels.

Anderson said the Legislature’s hands are statutorily tied when dealing with the university, and is frustrated that the issue could not be worked out in any other way.

“They should be allowed to have the coverage that works for their family,” she said.

Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) agreed. “It is a shame that this bill should have come here. You’d think with all the great minds at the U, common sense would have prevailed.”

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