EDITORIAL: Students should be allowed to decide their insurance

Florida State Representative Ed Homan (R-Tampa) plans to introduce a new bill that will require students enrolled in the State University System to have health insurance. The bill is expected to generate $9 million in revenue, but will also have an impact on the bottom line of some students who are strapped for cash.

Health insurance for students through USF costs $1,253 per year. It might not seem like a lot for those in the work force, but full-time, independent students might rather be uninsured in favor of having shelter and food – factors that could help prevent them from becoming ill in the first place.

While the bill may seem to come from concern – ideally, everyone would be insured – the financial realities for students may not mesh with wide-sweeping legislation that could limit access to education.

For students who can’t afford insurance, there are plenty of options if they do become ill. Visits to Student Health Services tend to cost less than the co-pays required for insured patients at a doctor’s office. Additionally, many local pharmacy and grocery store chains offer inexpensive antibiotics for those with a prescription. Barring any tragedies, students could make it though their university experience healthy, with money in their pocket to spend on ramen noodles.

One argument used by those pushing for the new bill is that the more people who have insurance, the less it will cost in premiums. This logic is based on the idea that uninsured people are healthy and, therefore, will be paying into the program but rarely taking from it.

However, the increase in the membership will not necessarily improve the statistics of who visits the doctor and how often. In fact, it could drive up the price of the insurance.

The idea that an insurance company would actually reward a group of individuals required to purchase something is borderline ludicrous. All Florida drivers are required to purchase auto insurance, and this has not led to a decrease in premium costs. In fact, they continue to rise regardless of driver performance or loyalty.

Ultimately, this bill seems to be an effort to generate more money for already-profitable companies – while taking advantage of a student population to do so.

While it is easy for politicians and business leaders to suggest that students to use cell phones less or stop buying so much gas, it would be best for them to remember that for many, college is the closest many students will get to poverty in their lives. They make sacrifices to improve themselves, and deciding how to spend what little income they have should not be mandated by insurance companies.