Editorial: New law makes health a priority

Last week, The Rider News conducted a poll about health care and a faceoff about Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s views on the issue. This week, however, President Bush has made a small but decisive change in students’ health care.

Every student at Rider needs to be covered by insurance in order to attend the university. If a student isn’t covered by his or her family’s health insurance, they are required to buy it through the school at a very low cost. For most students, health insurance and health care is not as big a deal as the cost of gas or the current state of the job market. This is because average college-age students are healthy — they can go for over a year without a checkup. They may get the twice-a-year common cold, and maybe once a year they catch a stomach virus, but nothing life-threatening and nothing that the smallest amount of health care coverage can’t handle.

Unfortunately, there are many people in this country who are so sick that their health insurance can’t cover it. Some people are diagnosed with cancer or some other debilitating illness right in the middle of their school career, causing them to drop out of college to tend to their medical needs. But what would seem the obvious action for someone who has been diagnosed with an illness (dropping out of school to take care of yourself) is not always covered by health insurance.

The average health insurance company covers workers and their families. When children reach the age of 18, if they stay in school, they may still be covered as long as they can prove they are full-time students. But up until last week, for some students, their coverage stopped when they took medical leave from school because of being admitted to a hospital.

This was true for Michelle Morse, the student a new law is named after. Morse was a student at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. In order to continue to be covered under her family’s health insurance policy, Morse remained a full-time student even while undergoing chemotherapy for her illness, a process that is tiring and painful. Although Morse eventually died from her cancer, her legacy lives on through Michelle’s Law, which Congress unanimously supported and Bush signed last week. This new law states that full-time college students who are dependent on their family’s health insurance can apply for medical leave without the threat of losing coverage while out of school. Health insurance providers don’t need to change any of their procedures; they are just unable to drop students’ coverage in the case of a long-term illness where they are unable to attend school.

Although this law may not affect you directly, it’s important to think about what your coverage does and to be prepared for the worst. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 2,400 college students will be diagnosed with cancer in 2008. There’s a slim chance you or a loved one could be affected by some serious injury or disease, but knowing you will be covered in case of an emergency is one less thing to worry about in a time of stress.

Of course, this change in health insurance is only the first step in fixing the health care program in the United States. The changes that the next president could make are in your hands at the moment you pick a candidate on Nov. 4. Health care may not be an issue now, especially with this new bill in place, but when you graduate in a few short years it will be, and by then it will be even harder to do anything to change it.

Written By Opinion Editor, Nadine Tester

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