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In early May, students were surprised with an email from Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Jeffrey Gray announcing a change to Fordham’s health insurance policy. Starting next semester, all full-time undergraduate students will be required to purchase health insurance, even as the individual mandate penalty for not having insurance of the Affordable Care Act will no longer apply as of this year.
The school will bill the yearly premium of $3,073 for its insurance plan, provided through Aetna, to all student accounts. In order to opt out, students must “show proof of comparable external insurance.”
The email cites requests that they “have received from both parents and students to make this change to our existing program.” Fordham has already mandated a Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) for graduate and international students, and the SHIP was previously a voluntary option for domestic undergraduate students. This option was revoked as of the 2016-2017 year because “insurance regulations affecting the insurance industry have made pricing of voluntary enrollment plans prohibitively high,” according to a different email sent out last summer.
In the latest update to the policy, Fordham has not only reversed that decision but broadened their health insurance policy’s reach at a price which gives many students and their families sticker shock. The new change is intended to increase the number of students who are covered, since according to Fordham, one in five undergraduate students are uninsured or seriously under-insured in the New York metropolitan area.
Part of the problem is that many health insurance plans will not cover services out-of-state, or even in-state if the service is outside of the preferred provider network, so even if students have health insurance from their families, they still might incur steep costs if they need treatment while at school.
Many other private universities require health insurance for undergraduates, and it makes sense that Fordham has joined the growing list. Given that we pull from many states and many countries, we appreciate Fordham’s interest in our well-being and making sure students have medical care covered within the state of New York. However, due to the last minute nature of the announcement, we are confused about the way it will be implemented.
Being without health insurance when you need it is scary, as anyone who has ever been in that situation will tell you. But it’s unfair and imposes an unnecessary hardship that Fordham should slam a $3,073 fee on already-struggling students’ backs.
The online enrollment and waiver processes for fall 2019 are currently available on Aetna’s website, and the premium for the fall semester has been billed to student accounts. Even for students who will be refunded, there is no telling yet how smoothly the waive-out process will run, especially in its first year of implementation, or how long students will have to wait for the promised refund.
A fee over $3,000 isn’t a drop in the bucket for any student or their family, and it’s puzzling that Fordham would frontload us with these charges out of the blue and without a clear communication of the thought process behind the decision — a decision which was released after classes had already ended for the semester, preventing students from discussing the issue with administrators in any sort of forum.
Pursuing health insurance for all students is a noble task, one for which Fordham should be lauded as a fulfillment of “cura personalis.” However, its efforts to lift up its undergraduates may result in pushing many of them down instead. Going forward, we ask that Fordham’s administration provides greater detail about this change and open avenues between the administration and the student body to engage in dialogue.
This mandatory plan for student health insurance was thrust on students in early May, a time when most are ping-ponging between the extremes of worrying about finals and imagining themselves on a beach somewhere far, far away.
As such, the student body paid as much attention to Fordham’s pronouncement as they did to their caffeine intake during finals season: none.
We’ll all likely notice, however, when we have to pay up.