Uninsured students on the rise

When Heather Dehner graduated high school, she decided to pursue avenues other than college. This decision came with many changes, one of them being health insurance coverage. Dehner had been relying on her parent’s health insurance and once she was no longer a full-time high school student, she was automatically dropped from the plan.

After a year without insurance, Dehner decided to begin taking classes at Northern Kentucky University, partly to be added back on her parent’s insurance. “I didn’t have health insurance for a year because I wasn’t attending school at the time and my job didn’t offer it,” Dehner said. “It’s very expensive if you do need to go to the hospital or doctors office.”

It’s a growing phenomenon – more and more young adults don’t have heath insurance coverage, according to the Kentucky Medical Association’s Web site. Many employer-sponsored plans have age based cut offs for dependents, leaving part-time and graduate students with fewer health coverage choices.

More than 46 million Americans aren’t covered and nearly one of every three uninsured is between the ages of 18 and 24, the KMA Web site said. This results in many college students without coverage, relying on their parent’s plan or enrolling in a university plan if their parents don’t have coverage.

NKU offers the Student Accident and Sickness Insurance program, which is optional to students enrolled in six credit hours or more. Currently 105 students are enrolled in the plan.

Dr. Barbara Sween, director of NKU’s Health, Counseling and Prevention Services, said many students drop out of college because of a major illness or accident. “If they don’t have insurance, it can financially wipe them out.” That’s why many universities are now requiring health insurance as a condition of enrollment, Sween said.

Dehner knows all too well about medical bills. While out of school, she had a chemical reaction to a tanning bed accelerator that resulted in a $500 bill from a hospital emergency room. “That’s when I decided to go back to school – so I could be on my parents’ insurance again,” Dehner said.