Mandate affects college students

Published 3:07 pm Friday, September 10, 2010

Special to the Daily News

Most students in the University of North Carolina system are required to have health insurance this fall semester.
This requirement affects about 215,000 students on all 16 university-system campuses. Students at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, a magnet high school, are exempt. The UNC system is offering a plan to the approximately 16 percent of its students who cannot provide their own health insurance.
Many area high-school graduates attend East Carolina University to pursue higher education. They will be affected by this new law.
Jolene Jernigan, director of student health services on the ECU campus, explained in an e-mail last week how the health-insurance mandate is affecting the university and its nearly 28,000 students this fall semester.
“Students without coverage from an existing plan will be automatically enrolled into the health policy adopted by East Carolina. The Student Health Insurance Plan works in partnership with the University Health Fee to provide seamless health care at a reasonable cost to students,” she wrote.
Undergraduate students in degree-seeking programs or enrolled in six or more credit hours on main campus are required to have health insurance. Graduate students in degree-seeking programs or enrolled in one or more credit hours on the main campus are required to have health insurance.
Jernigan elaborated that the university health fee covers provider charges at student health services, while the student health insurance plan covers other charges such as laboratory procedures, X-rays, pharmaceuticals and referrals to community specialists when needed.
Students who are already covered by existing health plans may opt out of the university’s plan.
The college plan offers 12-month coverage with split billing and coverage periods from Aug. 1 to Jan. 1 and Jan. 2 to July 31 in any 12-month period.
Under the new system-wide plan, a student will pay half of the health insurance premium each semester, with coverage continuing through the summer whether or not the student is enrolled in summer school.
For students who graduate in the spring, coverage continues until Aug. 1 of the year they graduate. For students who graduate at the end of the fall semester, coverage remains in effect to Jan. 1 of the next year.
The provider for ECU’s health plan is Pearce &Pearce, student-insurance specialists since 1948. This family run company is based in Florence, S.C.
Jernigan noted that because health insurance is a requirement for attendance by students meeting the established criteria, financial-aid money may be used to pay the premiums. Jernigan said that most students have received assistance.
The mandate for North Carolina students came through the Board of Governors for the University of North Carolina. The board comprises 32 voting members who are appointed by the N.C. General Assembly to four-year terms.
Beaufort County Community College is taking a different approach with student health care.
Judy Jennette, public relations director at BCCC and director of the Beaufort County Community College Foundation, said BCCC offers health insurance through other ways rather than mandated coverage.
“Beaufort County Community College does not offer its students health insurance. Nor do we require that they have it. We do offer insurance through their student activity fees, and certain types of classes like nursing and boat-engine repair,” she said.