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Planned bill would make health insurance a must for students

Do you have health insurance?

The answer may soon have to be “yes” for all incoming freshman at Florida’s public universities, should a slated bill pass in the next legislative session in January.

The bill, which will be introduced by the representative from the district in which USF is located, would be modeled after similar measures in other states, and would require that all students in the State University System to have some form of health insurance.

Proponents of the bill say that requiring college students to have insurance will drive down the cost of insurance for everyone, while simultaneously lowering the number of uninsured Floridians, a problem that has long been a concern of the state government.

USF’s student health insurance costs $1,253 per year. Harold Bower, director of business and operations at Student Health Services, said that if every student had insurance, the cost of insurance would stabilize against inflation, possibly decreasing the cost for those who hold it.

Bower said that’s because the cost of insurance is based on the overall pool of holders. When more healthy people have insurance, there’s more money going into the insurance pool and less coming out in the form of doctor visits and trips to the hospital. With more money coming in, it is expected that insurance companies would pass the savings on to the consumer.

If the bill passes and is implemented, students who already have insurance will receive a waiver, but will likely be required to prove their status each year to avoid the required fees, Bower said.

Some students have voiced opposition to this plan.

Angela Campisi, majoring in studio art, said she does not have health insurance, because it is too expensive.

“I’m for free health insurance,” she said, “but I’m not for having to pay for it. Otherwise, I would do that on my own.”

State representative Dr. Ed Homan (R-Tampa), who plans to introduce the bill in January, addressed concerns about students taking on an additional expense by saying that they needed to have priorities.

He said that the monthly cost of insurance would be roughly equivalent to the amount most students pay for a cell phone bill, or the amount they spend on gas every month.

The revenue generated by the law is expected to total around $9 million. Homan plans to attach a program to the bill that would use the revenue to fund a financial aid program for students who can’t afford the additional cost.

Homan said that the bill is still in its early stages of development and he expects opposition.

He said that Gov. Charlie Crist will likely oppose the bill because it raises the cost of education, an issue Homan said the governor has generally opposed.

The Governor’s press office could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Dr. Egilda Terenzi, director of clinical and medical services at SHS, is on the task force the Board of Governors – the group that runs SUS schools like USF – assigned to evaluate this program. She said that USF would likely support a mandatory health insurance program, though the BOG task force has not released its final results. She said the task force is still compiling statistics to assess the overall impact of this decision, though it does appear the task force would be in favor of it.

“Health insurance on an individual level is very expensive, and a University-wide program would be a much more affordable option for students,” she said.