Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Some students have no choice but to rely on the University of Maryland for health insurance. Unfortunately, this past June, they had to pay about an additional $700 for their student health insurance plan if they wanted to remain a student at this university.
This $700 that has to come from students’ pockets can be the decision between how many jobs students have to work to cover the cost and, as a result, how many educational, research and extracurricular opportunities they get to take on during their time at this university. But in bitter irony, some on-campus employment opportunities have made substantial cuts in the number of hours and shifts each student employee can have.
Simply put, students rely on the university for health insurance, but the university lets them down. The university needs to start funding its health care plan and invest in reasonable alternatives for students who can’t afford it.
When I say students have the choice to subscribe to university health insurance, I do so very lightly. Many students have felt trapped into purchasing this university’s student health insurance plan. International students studying at the university are unable to take on any plan besides SHIP unless they want to completely forgo their studies — so no matter how high the price goes, they’re essentially forced to pay it.
This university has cited the fact that health insurance costs have gone up across the nation as a reason for the price increase, and tried to justify its actions by using the fact that students have the option to make partial payments over time to help relieve the burden of these extra costs. But this option doesn’t change how a substantial extra $700 has to be paid by someone — and oftentimes, this burden is falling on students.
The prices of health insurance premiums have gone up nationally, but even so, when it comes to health insurance premiums that come with different forms of employment, many employers have opted instead to help fund these premiums by adding money to their health care plans. Some employers are even trying to shield the workers who earn less by charging them less than some of their coworkers for the health insurance. And if these plans aren’t in the works right now, other employers plan to institute these measures in the next few years.
This university could have chosen to do this, too. Whether this plan would have subsidized the cost for international and low-income students or simply added more funding to its health care plan to lower the burden placed on students, students would not have been blindsided by this change.
Having affordable, accessible health insurance is crucial to any community’s wellbeing. Accessing health care here at this university shouldn’t be a problem, especially with illnesses such as COVID-19 and the flu presenting serious concerns.
Instead, students and their families have to work around this change. They have to take on new jobs and take fewer classes — this university can rake in more money instead of taking on the brunt of the cost itself. This university should be working with its students to keep their health care accessible and affordable — not the other way around.
College is already an immense expense for students and their families — it’s one of the biggest investments many will make in their lifetime. As a student, I can certainly say that it feels like there’s something new you have to pay for at every turn, such as wanting to have a car on the campus. To keep this university diverse and inclusive, it must make its own health insurance plan as well as alternative options accessible and affordable for students.
Rebecca Scherr is a junior English and government and politics major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.