Many College Students Lack Health Insurance, Report Says

Article excerpt

RESEARCH PAPERS, homework, exams, tuition expenses and competition for top jobs and internships are but a few of the many challenges facing today's college students. On campuses around the nation, however, another worry is taking a toll on students' health and safety: uninsurance.

According to a report released in March by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, about 20 percent of U.S. college students ages 18 to 23, or about 1.7 million, were without health insurance in 2006. Moreover, certain groups of students, such as part-time students, minority students and students from lower-income families, were more likely than others to be uninsured, the report said.

"We are talking about the health of about 14 million to 16 million people in that age group," said Dana Mills, MPH, director of student health services at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., and chair of the American College Health Association's Student Health Insurance Task Force. "This is something that the college health community has worked on for years. It is an issue close to our hearts."

Of the 80 percent of college students ages 18 to 23 who had health insurance in 2006, 7 percent were covered through private health insurance plans, such as student insurance plans, and 6 percent were covered by public programs such as Medicaid, the report said. The majority of students--fully 67 percent--were covered by employer-sponsored plans, usually as dependents on a parent's plan. However, as college students get older they may no longer be able to retain coverage as dependent children on a parent's plan.

Mills said many colleges and universities in the United States are moving toward requiring students to have health insurance, "so that either the students bring something from the family or buy what's offered on campus. …