An internal survey in Utah State University’s Student Health and Wellness Center indicates 19 percent of students have no health insurance. Center Director, Dr. Jim Davis, said another 12 percent aren’t sure if they have health insurance. “The major reason given is that it’s too expensive,” said Dr. Davis, “but also a large proportion feel they don’t need insurance because they’re healthy at the present time and don’t see the need for it.” The Student Health and Wellness Center is available to all students, but they pay for it. Students pay fees and one of those is a student health fee when they sign up for classes. That health fee provides funding for the student health center. Student health insurance is not mandatory for USU students and Dr. Davis feels it should be. He didn’t always feel that way. “I’ve come to realize there is a large proportion of our students who lack access to specialty care and other services. We try to provide the very best care we can here on campus but we are not comprehensive nor are we open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. “So they have a need for health insurance to be able to access good quality health care. It’s that access issue that really changed my mind as I watched students who couldn’t schedule their case of appendicitis or didn’t plan on the broken leg that occurred as they were sliding down Old Main Hill on an ice block.” Several states have passed mandatory rules requiring health insurance before enrolling at a university. “The State of Idaho has done it, the California State schools, Colorado and Massachusetts require health insurance before attending universities.” Would such a requirement force prospective students away from USU? “It doesn’t seem to hurt BYU, they have mandated insurance for a long time and they have no difficulty at all recruiting students. The University of Utah’s medical college requires mandatory insurance. Our graduate school now mandates insurance but helps subsidize it. “The point is: it doesn’t seem to affect a good quality program’s ability to recruit good students.” Davis said with an enrollment over 20,000, USU’s campus health facility sees 13,000 visits a year. “Some of those are repeat visits. The last check we did we figured we saw about half the students on campus one time or another during the school year.” Beyond health concerns within the USU community, how does Dr. Davis regard the current national health care debate. “We certainly feel the need for reform. It comes down to how that reform occurs and the cost. There are very few out there who feel we should do nothing at all or that the status quo is perfectly all right.”
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