Last week, students across this campus were surprised. They woke up one morning to find out that their university, in the name of “affordability,” had decided to dictate that all students, unless they can provide proof of insurance, will be forced to buy it directly from the school. In other words, just like Obamacare, this new health policy requires all students to pay for insurance unless they opt-out. Whether they actually want to do so is irrelevant to administrators. In addition, the insurance must meet certain criteria, which means that even if a student is already insured, the University can declare it inadequate and require them to give money to the school for their insurance.
I didn’t come here to be forced to pay for health insurance. I came for an education.
Proponents of the new policy state that it will make insurance for all students more affordable by distributing the costs. In March, a report by a student researcher had found that “the opt-in system meant that there weren’t many healthy students in the insurance pool, which drove up the overall cost of the plan.” By automatically enrolling all students in the health care system, costs can be cut from $4,103 to only $2,750. Therefore, under the report’s findings, it stands to reason that making all students pay for insurance is the right way to go. After all, students having the ability to make their own health care decisions is nowhere near as important as being able to provide the vague “affordability” that so many Student Association candidates run on each and every year.
However, there are several key problems with this system. The first should be obvious: There is no point in making something more affordable for people that don’t want it. If I am a perfectly healthy student who doesn’t see the need to buy insurance and am now forced to pay for it, my costs don’t decrease from $4,103 to $2,750. I wasn’t paying any health care costs to the University in the first place. In fact, my costs actually increase from $0 to $2,750. In other words, my overall costs have increased. So for me, GW as a whole has actually just become less affordable. Worse yet, since I am healthy, I won’t even need to use the services. This means that not only am I paying more money to the University, but I’m not benefitting in any way from doing so.
In addition, for low-income students for whom $4,103 is too expensive, $2,750 is still a hefty sum. One important fact to remember is that the school will not be assisting low-income students in paying this fee. GW is already one of the most expensive institutions in the nation. Replacing a voluntary payment with a slightly smaller, mandatory payment is in no way “promoting affordability.” It simply slaps an additional charge on students who are already struggling to be able to afford GW. Students who are so poor that they already can’t afford to pay for insurance are now forced to do so, even if they are healthy. In fact, even if they do have insurance and administrators decide it is not adequate, they will still be forced to buy the University’s insurance. So, not only are students forced to pay for insurance, they must also have an insurance plan that the University approves of.
Remember, anyone can be generous with someone else’s money.
This brings us to my biggest concern: the encroachment of the University into areas unrelated to its core purpose. When I chose to come to GW, I didn’t come to be lectured on exactly what kind of health insurance I should have. I didn’t come here to be forced to pay for health insurance. I came for an education. If the administration wishes to offer health insurance to students, as it has been doing for years, that is a great resource for students. But when our University begins to dictate other aspects of our lives that are unrelated to our education, it begins to infringe on our rights, especially when it isn’t covering the costs of giving us all insurance itself, instead requiring us to pick up the tab.
Here is my recommendation: If health care affordability is really a priority of administrators, then instead of spending $500,000 on University President Thomas LeBlanc’s inauguration or bringing Lil Pump and Lil Yachty to campus, they should spend similar amounts on providing health care for students who can’t afford it. That way, with the amount of money GW already possesses, we can increase affordability for students who need it the most. However, this will almost certainly never happen, because it would require spending their own money, instead of leaving average students to pay the bill for it. Remember, anyone can be generous with someone else’s money.
Emmanuel Sessegnon, the Vice President of Turning Point USA and Treasurer for Young Americans for Liberty, is a sophomore majoring in international affairs.
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