Numbers show most students paying new MSU health plan out-of-pocket
Numbers outlining the scope of MSU’s controversial health care requirement show the policy is impacting just a small slice of this year’s new student population, but most are paying with no aid from the university.
New data released by MSU shows about 6 percent of freshmen and transfer students, or 605 students, are enrolled in the university plan. Of that amount, slightly more than half are paying out of pocket, while about 40 percent — the neediest students enrolled in the plan — are having their cost covered entirely through grants.
The numbers give new context to a policy that has pitched the university and House lawmakers in disagreement.
“I think what we see here is we’ve been able to provide security in the health issues that we’ve outlined,” university spokesman Kent Cassella said.
“We’re able to take care of our most at-need students.”
The remaining 23 students, about 3 percent, are paying half of the cost with grants and half with offered loans.
Low-interest loans are available for those who didn’t receive aid, Cassella said.
The policy, which took effect at the beginning of the academic year, mandates every new student must carry health care or be automatically enrolled in the $1,505-per-year university plan.
Linguistics freshman Madelain Thomas said she was billed for the plan after she didn’t notify the university of her existing health care coverage and paid for the plan after a lien was placed on her student account.
“My mom has talked to the school, and they said the cutoff date was the cutoff date and there’s not a whole lot we can do,” Thomas said.
The university will remove charges for instances of double billing, Cassella said.
How the policy would affect students here has been at the center of the debate between lawmakers and MSU administrators.
In February, members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education called administrators to testify in a special hearing on the policy, which ended in disagreement. The committee, led by State Reps. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck, and Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, argued the policy adds an unnecessary cost to college, while MSU administrators insisted it is a necessary protection for students.
Cotter and Genetski could not be reached for comment.
ASMSU Vice Chair for Governmental affairs Victor Draine said the new numbers showing most students are paying out-of-pocket might be enough to change his stance, even after he testified in favor of the measure.
“If the numbers are higher than what we were told and people really are having to pay out of pocket, that’s something that we as ASMSU representatives need to deal with,” Draine said.
Of the 12,574 students who were required to have health care this year, 86 percent came to the university already carrying health insurance, according to the data.
International students and medical students have long been required to carry health care.