Expanding Student Access to Health Care

From a Boston Globe editorial:

MASSACHUSETTS COLLEGE students are not allowed to get health coverage through the state Connector Authority’s program of subsidized Commonwealth Care. So private, for-profit health insurance companies are making a killing on students who are not covered by their parents, spouses, or employers. The state, which is exploring ways to ease the burden, should either reverse that policy or find some other way to keep high insurance premiums from adding to the skyrocketing tuition and fees that students have to pay.

According to a report by the state’s Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, 30 cents of every premium dollar for student insurance goes toward profits and administrative costs. That compares with 12 cents for policies sold to the general public. With some of the student policies, less than 60 cents of every premium dollar goes to actual health benefits.

Students in Massachusetts have been required to have health insurance for the last 20 years, and most get it through their families to employers. But for the 97,000 remaining students who get covered through their schools, the policies can be shoddy:

[These] plans are not required to provide the “minimum credible coverage” standard that plans for the general population must meet under [Massachusetts’ 2006 universal health care law]. Many student policies have limits on payments for hospitalization, prescription drugs, and doctors’ visits. In 2008, 951 insured students had outpatient costs that exceeded their caps.

The Globe proposes either folding student plans into the state’s universal system or requiring school administrators to make sure plans offered by colleges meet certain minimum requirements. Whatever the solution, it’s pretty ridiculous that Massachusetts is forcing some of its college students into truly deficient health care plans.

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.