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Mandatory heath care debate affects college students

As health care costs rise, and mandatory health care slowly comes into completion, some Queens College students feel indifferent about whether it should be mandatory or not.

Hammaad Munir, a freshman at QC, who is covered by his parents’ health insurance through Medicaid, says that mandatory health insurance would be an unfair burden on students who work to stay healthy.

“I think there are young people that never or hardly get sick, and some of these people don’t have health insurance,” Munir said. “It’d be pretty unfair to force them to pay extra for something that [they] would rarely ever make use off.”

According to the American College Health Association’s national college health assessment survey, in 2011, 91.5 percent of all college students rated their health as good, very good or excellent, while 59 percent rated their health as very good or excellent.

Yet still, college students are far from being immune to various diseases and illnesses. According to the same survey, 21.7 percent of college students suffer with allergies and 18.4 percent with sinus infections — the two most common ailments — with back pain at 12.9 percent and asthma at 9.3 percent, coming in third and fourth place.

Academic performance also tends to take a hit through times of sickness, the ACHA-NCHA survey revealed that high levels of stress, anxiety and depression are one of the main health reasons related to poor academic performance amongst college students.

This is one of the reasons why more colleges are requiring students to have health care. Aside from concern about the possibility of deteriorating academic performance, school officials from different colleges cite retention rates, liability, a healthier college atmosphere and allowing students the ability to remain in school while going through medical emergencies, as justifications for mandatory health insurance.

Critics such as Stacey Pogue, an analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, argue that although mandatory insurance through a university tends to be much cheaper, tuition costs still tend to increase.

Neither QC nor CUNY have mandatory health insurance policies, but CUNY does offer health care insurance through Emblem Health, which offers insurance to matriculated students taking six or more college credits.

The CUNY/GHI plan offered by Emblem Health pays for services like doctor’s visits and emergency situations. However, due to rising health care costs and low enrollment rate, the rates offered by Emblem Health have risen in the past year.

Only 1,000 out of a total of 165,000 CUNY students are actually enrolled in CUNY health care. Of those enrolled, 40 percent are uninsured or uncovered, which is consistent with the overall state of college students nationwide as being the least insured age group, according to a study by the Lookout Mountain Insurance Group, which researches the impact of health care reform.

Mursal Jaffery, a junior at QC, falls under that uninsured 40 percent. According to him, a cheap health insurance option is something he will definitely consider.

“I’m looking at Emblem health, apparently their insurance is a lot cheaper,” Jaffery said. “I’m definitely in favor of making health insurance mandatory. I would be one of the first to benefit.”

As for the higher tuition costs, Jaffrey said he does not mind them, “the peace of mind of having adequate health insurance would overshadow that.”

QC offers a voluntary program through the American College Student Association. Their plans and rates differ depending on age group, but on average, paying slightly above $1,000 a year is expected.

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