Health insurance costs rise at some U.S. colleges

College students across the nation are facing unforeseen health insurance charges on their tuition bills, but AU does not require students to buy a school-sponsored insurance policy if they already get coverage from a policy.

While the Student Health Center does offer an AU insurance policy, they do not require students to buy it if they have insurance that has an equal or greater level of coverage, according to Cynthia Wilson, the center's business manager.

"[Students] don't have to take our health insurance," she said. "They have the ability to investigate any other carrier out there."

This is not the case at other colleges' campus health centers, where students often face hundreds to thousands of dollars in extra health insurance costs, according to U.S. News and World Report.

It is becoming common practice for schools to automatically charge their students for the campus-sponsored health insurance plan unless students prove they have outside health care coverage.

AU enrolls students in the Student Health Center's insurance plan automatically and bills them unless a student fills out a valid waiver form before the deadline date, according to the center's Web site. The Student Health Center mails information to students about the plan during the summer, places fliers in students' mailed bills, posts notifications on Today@AU, lists information on their Web site and holds information sessions for new and transfer students during orientations, Wilson said.

"I think the option is always open to the student," Wilson said. "But we as a university allow them to make a selection. Talk to mom and dad and look at some of the local plans in the D.C. area ... I think that's a fair way to do it."

Annual premium health insurance rates at AU for the 2007-2008 year cost $1,325. Coverage from January to August costs $845 and coverage from May to August costs $360, according to the center's Web site.

At other colleges, the school-sponsored health plan costs range from a couple hundred dollars at Brigham Young University to as much as $2,500 at Brown University.

AU offers a school-sponsored health insurance plan to protect students from incurring any unnecessary health bills, Wilson said.

"[In the past] we have had some students who have had thousands of dollars in expenses because their insurances did not cover the full services," she said. "The university just wants to make sure that our students are well-protected."

AU's fees for health coverage seem fair compared to the prices at other schools, said Jacqui Kemp, a sophomore in the School of International Service.

"The chance of something happening and needing health insurance is relatively low - it is important AU has such a reasonable insurance policy compared to other schools," Kemp said.

Some schools require students who already have coverage through an existing policy to pay for school-sponsored policies, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Forcing students to purchase an additional insurance policy is not reasonable unless they do not have adequate coverage already, according to Josh Safran, a sophomore in the Kogod School of Business.

"It's not fair for them to charge everyone, but if students don't have the minimum [coverage] requirements, they should make them [buy it]," Safran said.

It is important for college students to have insurance, but it is unfair for them to get charged for coverage if they already have their own, said Daisy Landers, a freshman in the School of Communication.

"I remember when my dad told me to fill the paper work to make sure I did not get charged doubly, and if that happened to anyone, then that's ridiculous," she said.

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