Colleges may require students to get health insurance

By Al Pefley  email

Boca Raton, FL  (WFLX) - While the health-care debate continues in Washington, D.C., another totally separate debate is going on in our state.

This one involves college students. For many students, college is a time of serious learning.

And college students who don't have health insurance could soon learn they'll have to get some if they want to remain in school.

Lexie Yanes and Erica Parnell are both freshmen at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

At the present time, their school does not require them to have health insurance.

But that soon might be a requirement that they, and thousands of other college students in Florida will face.

"I don't think it's a good idea," Yanes said.

Neither of these young women is thrilled with the idea of being required to have health insurance to attend college.

"If it passes, less kids will go to school. I think it should be left up to the students. We're the ones paying. It's our lives. It's not, they don't need to take care of us."

Under the plan, students at all 11 of Florida's state schools would have to get health insurance.  It would increase the cost of going to school by an estimated $1,300 a year per student.

The University of Florida and University of Central Florida are backing the idea, and FSU already requires its students to have health insurance.

The proposal is bound to be controversial. A recent survey showed that at some of Florida's state universities, more than 40 percent of the students have no health coverage.

Erica, a nursing major, and Lexie, a biology major, live in the same dorm at FAU. They say they both have part-time jobs to help pay for college.

But they feel mandatory health insurance is just too much of financial burden to place on students.

"I pay for a lot of stuff myself as it is. And I work, and I have to save up all my money, and I have to watch what I spend. And I already have a lot of loans taken out. A lot of kids can barely afford to come to college now because of the economy, so adding more money to their tuition isn't gonna help them, Parnell said.

Supporters of the plan say if all 11 state-run universities in Florida require students to carry health insurance, they can negotiate a lower premium on insurance policies that are now offered through the schools.

The measure did not make it through the state legislature last spring.

But it's expected to come up again in the next session.