Health Care Comes Last on Many Students' Lists; despite a Variety of Plans, College Students Tend to Go without Proper Insurance

Article excerpt

Byline: ADAM AASEN

Sara Kraft doesn't have health insurance - she just crosses her fingers.

Whenever she trips and falls or has a fever, she always hopes it's nothing serious.

"I feel like even today that I'm taking a risk," said Kraft, a University of North Florida senior.

Many parents' family health insurance plans will cover children in college, but a March study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office said one in five students does not have health insurance.

Some blame it on soaring health care costs, while others say there are affordable plans out there but many students just think they're invincible.

UNF, Edward Waters College, Flagler College and Jacksonville University all offer student health care plans. JU and Edward Waters require students to have health insurance and will automatically charge them for their plan.

At JU, students can provide proof of other insurance to opt out. Flagler College immediately enrolls its students with a health insurance plan unless they show they have other coverage or sign a waiver to go without insurance. Students can't opt out at Edward Waters.

Neither Florida Community College at Jacksonville nor St. Johns River Community College offers a health plan.

The GAO study found that 57 percent of all colleges offer plans with a third of all schools mandating coverage. The average annual premium was $850, about the same as UNF's plan, but more expensive than Edward Waters, JU or Flagler's plans.

Although officials said the plans are affordable, it's still burdensome for some students.

"Cost is the biggest barrier," said Doreen Perez, director of student health services at UNF. "I still believe that most students want health insurance, but they still can't afford it."

Kraft dropped her UNF insurance her senior year because she said she figures it was a waste to spend the money when there are discounted prices for all students at the Student Health Care Center.

Although UNF's plan offers students discounts, Perez said fewer than 5 percent of students enroll in the program. It wasn't known how many have other plans.

Fred Beck, UNF's medical director, said he estimates about half the patients he treats don't have any health insurance.

Beck said uninsured students risk being diagnosed with a serious disease that won't be covered under a future plan because it'll be documented as a previous existing condition. …