Can PSU dictate insurance choices?

Submitted by Portland State Student, Duane Best

Apparently so.  

According to [the adviser of the Portland State] Student Health Insurance, “The university had a mandatory health insurance plan that every student has had to purchase whether they had outside health insurance or not for more than twenty years. We did a number of studies and found that our students were dropping out of classes, not following through with prescribed medical care (MRI, prescripts) because they had plans with deductibles that were 5K or even 10K and were therefore never able to use the plan that they had. In these cases, the students often dropped out of school still holding their financial aid debt, dealing with an illness and without a degree. The university at that time decided to offer a more robust health insurance plan and, in addition to that, provided students with the ability to waive, which had not previously existed as long as a student had a plan that met two criteria—a deductible that is $2500 or less and a plan that pays 70 percent or more in-patient hospitalization.”

At first reading it sounds reasonable. PSU is concerned about student health and will offer a health insurance plan to students who do not have one. What is not clear is this is a condition of enrollment. In other words, meet the health insurance requirements that we have decided are appropriate for you or you do not attend PSU.

My family has chosen a health care plan with a deductible that is higher than the one PSU is demanding. It is a choice we made based on many factors, primarily financial. It is what we can afford. If I do not pay for the PSU health plan, I am no longer permitted to attend PSU. If I wish to continue at PSU, I have two choices. Pay about $300 a month (almost as much as we pay for our family plan) for health insurance that I do not want and do not need in addition to paying for my family’s health insurance, or remove myself from my family’s plan, which means I no longer can see my primary care team. I’ve created a trusting beneficial relationship with our family doctor that I now need to say goodbye to.

The people at Student Health Care assure me this is all for my benefit. Too many students were dropping out or failing courses because their insurance did not cover medical needs.  When asked to see some statistics on this, silence.

The Student Health Care web page states, “Portland State University has a strong institutional commitment to academics, student growth, and the development of individual responsibility.” At first, sounds good, but when you examine the facts, this policy of mandating an individual’s choice in insurance plans has nothing to do with academics and student growth and is in opposition to individual responsibility.

The cost of higher education is astronomical. As with most other students, I am using student loans to pay for this opportunity. I don’t have to elaborate on the costs. Any student knows it’s not only tuition. Those lovely little fees slid in with the tuition, housing, books, transportation or parking, food, and on and on. I’m a 57-year-old adult, and I chose this. I researched the costs and as a family, we decided we could just afford to make it happen although we would have to go into significant debt to make it happen. Although Student Health states they take great strides in informing students of this policy, at orientation it was presented as, “If you don’t have insurance, you’ll have to purchase PSU insurance.” This policy feels marginalizing and an overreach of the university’s authority to decide what is best for a student.

Editor’s note: Viking Voices is a reader-submitted opinion column. All quotes and information are provided by the guest submitter, not the Vanguard.