Students should have freedom of choice when it comes to SHS insurance

| Forum Editor

Last year, my allergies caught up with me­—for the third time in my life, I actually had an asthma attack. Thankfully, SHS managed to come to the rescue—they were extremely helpful and very thorough. While the staff consists of very professional and kind people, I don’t know if I can say the same about the administrators of SHS. As each year passes, they seem to get worse and worse. Just a month ago, my roommate tore a ligament in his leg due to a sports injury—but in his words, “apparently people don’t get sick on Sundays.”

To exacerbate the problem, due to the overflow of students entering SHS, each student only gets a very brief consultation. Of course, this is to be expected from a relatively small clinic that has to take care of a comparatively large student body, but the real problem lies in the price structure: I have yet to hear a compelling reason that health insurance from the University is mandatory.

I understand the main motivation behind making health insurance mandatory: as a matter of public health. If everyone is insured, the risk of disease breakouts is theoretically reduced. I admit that making health insurance optional does pose the risk of having people uninsured, and some students could opt out of the University’s health coverage while having no alternative insurance. Such a gap could, in theory, lead to an outbreak due to one infected vector of transmission. But I am still not convinced that these problems will surface at a school like Washington University. It’s painfully obvious that Wash. U. is largely composed of privileged students from wealthy backgrounds. If there is a risk from uninsured students, the risk would be very small, and I have a hard time buying the notion that a significant number of students would opt out of University health coverage if they did not have an insurance plan of their own.

While it may be naïve to assume that there would be no risks from making University coverage optional, the benefits outweigh the risks. Currently, every student pays a mandatory fee for health services that most will never use. Most serious problems end up with the bill passed to a larger hospital anyway, and the mandatory insurance does not cover prescription medication, which is (for better or worse) what most students will end up going to SHS for in the first place.

Of course, this sketch of an argument does not get at the true root of the issue, and I don’t expect to make a flawless argument in 500 words. But I believe that the status quo is equally unacceptable. We pay a significant sum of money for health coverage that we don’t necessarily need, and the result is not only the draining of pocketbooks, but also coverage that meets neither the needs nor the demands of many students.

Ultimately, giving the freedom of choice back to the students is the best option, and one that should be taken seriously as an alternative to the current system, which is inadequate in a very real way.

AJ is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. He can be reached via e-mail at asundar@wustl.edu.