Recently, the University announced sweeping changes to the Colonial Health Center. That announcement included increased access to Mental Health Services, the implementation of an electronic health record and an insurance waiver to guarantee students have access to quality, affordable health care. These changes present a dramatic and important step toward improving health care at GW.
Emmanuel Sessegnon, in a recent op-ed titled “Mandating the University’s health insurance plan hurts students,” offered an incorrect assessment of the new insurance waiver. It is a misconception to argue that mandating a waiver for health insurance “hurts students.” In reality, the requirement will make health care more affordable for students and bring GW in line with a practice that is standard in higher education, according to the Roosevelt Institute.
It is also incorrect to believe that under the new plan the University could decide students’ insurance is “inadequate” if it doesn’t meet certain criteria, and that uninsured students may be “forced” to purchase insurance from the University – both are patently false statements.
In the coming weeks, students will hear from the CHC about their options for next year. Specific details about the waiver are already available on the CHC’s website, which clarifies that students have options other than GW’s Student Health Insurance Plan, including getting insurance from the D.C. exchange. If students have health insurance from their parents, individually or any other way, they’ll be able to waive out of the requirement.
However, students would be well-advised to purchase GW’s health insurance if they are uninsured or can’t access care in D.C. with their current plan. Next year, the plan will cost less than $2,750. For that price, students will receive excellent health coverage, a fact that was detailed in the same Roosevelt Institute report.
Additionally, students who want SHIP, but have financial concerns, should reach out to staff within the student financial assistance office. Staff within the CHC can also help students think through the different insurance options that may work for them. As with any costs associated with attending GW, each student’s financial circumstances are unique and aid may be available to offset the cost of insurance on a case-by-case basis.
The purpose of health insurance is to ensure that students won’t break the bank when they get sick. By ensuring that all students have access to health care in the event of an emergency, the University can be certain that a student’s health won’t impact their ability to receive an education.
I am proud of the reforms that the Student Health Advisory Council has advocated to improve the CHC and student health. Through the Council – which provides an avenue for understanding health issues and creates a platform to generate solutions – we will continue to advocate improvements to the accessibility, affordability and quality of care provided at the CHC.
There is, of course, more the University can do to improve student health. That is why I’ll continue to be an advocate for improving the quality and affordability of care at the CHC. Remember, anyone can make a difference if they get involved. If you think the University can do better, run for the Student Association. In this year’s elections, only one SA Senate seat was contested.
Health is a part of the lives of every single member of our community. As forward-looking members of our community, we must remain committed to promoting our shared well-being and constructively build upon the successes we have accomplished together.
Reed Elman Waxham, the co-director of Student Health Services for the SA and chair of the Student Health Advisory Council, is a senior studying political communication in the School of Media & Public Affairs. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Student Association, Student Health Advisory Council or the Colonial Health Center.