FORT COLLINS – A House bill that would allow Colorado State University to require all of its graduate students to have health insurance passed the House on third reading Monday and now heads to the Senate for consideration.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, passed on a 37-27 vote.
The bill would allow CSU to require graduate students to either be a part of the school’s health-care program or provide proof that they are adequately covered under a private plan, a spouse or parent’s plan.
Currently, 80 percent of CSU graduate students are covered under some form of health-care coverage, according to a survey completed last spring.
“I think this is a bill that will allow CSU the flexibility to do what it thinks is best for its students,” Kefalas said after the vote. “It will allow the university to become more competitive when it tries to attract students.
“The bill’s supporters say it would allow CSU more flexibility and bargaining power when it tries to get health-care coverage for students because the university can go to the negotiating table with a guarantee that students must have coverage, university officials said during House testimony last week.
Its opponents say that it is just another way for CSU to pass some of its financial costs onto students.”
This bill is about shifting the (university’s) costs onto graduate students,” said Victor Mitchell, R-Castle Rock.
CSU officials deny that claim saying the health-care requirement will benefit the university in many ways.”
That’s not at all what is happening,” said Stephen Blom, director of Hartshorn Health Service at CSU. “In no way is this being done so that students can pick up some of the other health-care costs (the university has).”
Atmospheric sciences graduate student Mike Smith, an international student, said that although he agrees with the bill in theory, he doesn’t believe it is the best practice for all CSU graduate students.
“I agree with the spirit of the bill, however there needs to be reasonable choices offered,” Smith said. “International students have been required to have health insurance for several years and the stringent conditions for an ‘equivalent plan’ essentially railroads them into paying $150 a month for the CSU plan and I feel that this is an unreasonable burden.
“Currently, CSU’s definition of equivalent coverage includes a stipulation that limits plans with a deductible, which restricts many common health-care coverage plans.
That provision was put in place because too many international students were coming to CSU with health plans that didn’t adequately cover them during times of medical emergencies, Blom said.
In addition to reviewing that provision within the next year, Blom said exemptions regularly are made for students who carry health-care coverage that is “adequate” but that has a deductible.
In the past few years, CSU has seen a decline in the number of graduate students it enrolls while nationally there has been a 2 percent increase among graduate school enrollment and a 3 percent increase among CSU’s peer institutions.
The universities of Colorado, Northern Colorado and the Colorado School of Mines already have similar health-care requirements.