College health insurance policy incurs excessive fees, fails to allow sufficient healthcare options

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For the past four years, my family and I have used a healthcare sharing program rather than a standard insurance plan, which we decided to do based on financial reasons. Because of this, I have submitted a student insurance waiver request to the College of William and Mary every year. My requests had always been accepted, so this procedure was protocol rather than a source of concern. However, in July, I received an email from the College reminding me to submit my waiver. The message referred to itself as “a general reminder” that might not apply to everyone, so I ignored it. After all, my waiver request had already been granted in June. 

My mother, however, contacted the Student Health Insurance Office to confirm that my waiver was still acceptable. She received a reply July 24, one week after she sent her initial inquiry. The message informed her that the insurance waiver guidelines for the College had been updated. Suddenly, my healthcare program no longer qualified, so I was given seven days to enroll in the College’s Student Health Insurance Plan. My family and I had to pay $1,041 up front. Due to the late notice, I was unable to cancel my other healthcare program ahead of time, so I still had to pay for the month of August. 

The College requires all full-time students to have health insurance coverage. To meet this standard, students have to enroll in the Student Health Insurance Plan or successfully waive out of it. For the 2019-2020 academic year, the student plan costs a full $2,490. 

The College’s conduct in handling my case was unfair. I was forced to either change my healthcare provider or enroll in a different school. Because I am a junior and I was only given a week to make this decision, the latter was not an option. Also, I lost money because of the way they handled this issue; I had to pay for a month of a healthcare program that the College refused to accept. Finally, rather than contacting my family and I directly, we received a mass reminder email. Had my mother chosen to ignore the email like I did, the situation might have been worse. 

Yet there is a more troubling aspect to this issue. On its website, the College cites the extremely high cost of healthcare as the reason for the Student Insurance Requirement.

However, this requirement and the College’s conduct are not accommodating to students who struggle financially. If a student lacks adequate coverage, it is likely that they cannot afford it. Forcing this student to pay for the Student Health Insurance Plan is not a true solution. While it provides them with insurance, it also adds an extra financial burden.

My family and I happened to have enough money in our savings to finance the cost of the fall coverage period. Plenty of families would not have been able to do this, especially on such short notice. While there is a payment plan available, there is an additional fee for this option. 

If the high cost of healthcare is truly a concern for the College, then it should provide more accommodating and affordable options for students who do not have healthcare.

Email Anna Burns at acburns01@email.wm.edu.