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Eye On Boise

Fri., Sept. 14, 2012, 2:35 p.m.

State Board of Ed rejects changes to college student health insurance mandate

A proposal to amend the state Board of Education's policy regarding required health insurance for state university students failed today, when a motion to approve it for a first reading failed to even get a second. The changes would have included lifting a requirement that state universities offer insurance to students, and lifting a requirement that students obtaining their own insurance get policies at least equal to school-offered plans.

Boise State University argued that 85 percent of its students obtain insurance elsewhere, a number that's been rising, and with climbing premiums, it's becoming too expensive for the school to be in the insurance business. Instead, officials there said they'd like to focus on helping that 15 percent of their students to find appropriate insurance plans from other providers. BSU said it still would offer school-based insurance for student athletes and international students, because of other requirements.

However, the University of Idaho reported that an increasing number of students there are choosing to go with the school's own insurance plan.  And Idaho State University Vice President Jim Fletcher urged against lifting the requirement for school-based plans, saying that while just 29 percent of ISU students now choose the school's student health insurance, among "lower income students over 50 percent are taking that, and more are dependent on that." At Lewis-Clark State College, 28 percent are covered by the school's plan, a number that hasn't changed much in recent years.

Fletcher said, "We do believe that these changes would have the net effect of watering down our coverage." Board member Rod Lewis said, "I personally have some real concerns about what it means for students. ... We're not making available the last-resort ability to get coverage."

Eastern Idaho Technical College requested to be exempted from the insurance requirement entirely, arguing that it's more like a two-year community college; Idaho's community colleges aren't subject to the state board's requirement, because they are locally run, property-tax supported schools with their own elected boards. The board voted 4-2 against granting EITC the exemption, with just members Bill Gosling and Emma Atchley backing the exemption. State board staffer Matt Freeman said afterward, "The board just feels very strongly they want students insured."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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