By Leo Proechel, Staff Writer
Up until now, according to Dean of Students Paul Perrine, Warren Wilson has been one of the last colleges in the United States that still doesn’t require its students to provide proof of health insurance. However, under a new proposal from the administration, this is about to change. For some, the new policy may be a relief because of the possibility of receiving a new, inexpensive, and quality health care plan; some may see it as an inhibition to their freedom; others may just see it as one more annoying form they have to fill out online. But regardless of your stance, if you plan to attend Warren Wilson next year, you are going to have to have health insurance.
Here is a summary of the new policy. If you are a student enrolled in twelve or more credits at Warren Wilson next semester, you will be prompted to go to studentinsurance.com/Schools/NC/WWU and prove that you have a health insurance plan of some sort. If you do not do this by the end date of the add/drop period next semester (August 28th), you will be automatically enrolled in a default college insurance plan. This plan comes from American International Group, Inc. It will cost $1,220 for a single student and will last 12 months.
Until now, Warren Wilson has offered an optional health insurance plan at $436 for ten months of coverage. Paul Perrine, who oversaw the policy change, in an interview on April 4th, noted three primary reasons for the new policy: for one thing, Warren Wilson’s old insurance plan will not meet the requirements for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under the ACA, the only way that Warren Wilson can provide a student health care plan is if it requires all uninsured students to be enrolled in it. While there are only about a dozen students on the college’s plan now, Perrine thinks it is wrong to take away their insurance.
Second, when a student is severely injured and doesn’t have health insurance, there are what Perrine called “financial consequences.” These consequences include students being put into debt for many years, the local and regional community’s free services being taken advantage of, and students being rendered unable to pay tuition. Perrine said that he deals with uninsured students who need medical assistance several times a semester.
Finally, Perrine believes that the new insurance plan will help some students and their families who do not yet have ACA-qualifying health care to meet the new national requirements. He also said that the students he has talked to about the new plan so far have been very excited because it is much better than other plans they could find. Since he recognizes that some students may have difficulty paying for insurance, under the new policy, Perrine urges such students to write him a letter explaining their situation, so that he can try to help them–although he does not know at the moment how he will be able to help such students.
President Steven Solnick, in an interview on April 3rd, stated his own reasons for creating the healthcare-requirement policy. ”I think anyone who deals with a student who has fallen off a roof or fallen out of a tree and said ‘I will not get in that ambulance,’ it occurs to them that this is a bad thing,” he said. “We just need all students to be insured. That’s really it. It’s dangerous for the students, and it’s a huge liability for the college.” He also repudiated any notion that his motivation for the new policy was related to new ACA qualifications. He went on to mention that he attempted to establish this health care requirement last year but was unable to, due to “turmoil…because of the start of the Affordable Care Act.”
But regardless of the reasons for the change, both Solnick and Perrine agree that the new policy is the right thing for the college. ”I understand it’s a transition, but I think it’s the right decision to make,” said Perrine. Said Solnick, similarly, “We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”