Thursday, Sept. 14, 2000
Mary Spletter (510) 987-9004


Responding to growing concern about the estimated 40 percent of UC undergraduates without adequate health insurance and alarming medical-related student drop-out rates, the University of California Board of Regents has authorized UC President Richard C. Atkinson to establish mandatory health insurance as a non-academic condition of enrollment for undergraduates.

The new policy will be effective with the fall term 2001.

"The new undergraduate health insurance is intended to respond to the crisis in student health care and meet the needs of high numbers of students who are dropping out for medical reasons," said Atkinson.

UC is believed to be the first major multi-campus educational system to enact a mandatory health care policy for its undergraduates, according to a review of what is available at other universities by UC health care specialists.

Currently all graduate and international students in the UC system and undergraduate students at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz are required to carry mandatory health insurance. The new policy would impact undergraduate students at UC's seven other campuses.

An estimated 40 percent of UC undergraduates are currently uninsured or underinsured, according to a report on student health presented at the July Regents’ meeting. Systemwide, an estimated 25 percent of the cases where students leave school are for medical reasons, a significant portion of which are linked to inadequate or no insurance, noted the report, prepared by the UC Advisory Committee on Student Health.

The University of California typically loses nine percent of its incoming 20,500 freshmen during each of the undergraduates' first two years.

Health insurance packages will be determined by each campus, with a model plan estimated to cost students between $400 and $500 for year-round coverage. Costs are expected to vary according to the location of the campus, local health care costs, claims experience and the kinds of services available on campus at each student health service.

The cost will be factored into grants, loans and work-study programs offered to students who receive financial assistance.

Students already covered by adequate health insurance can waive the requirement.

Approximately 65 percent of undergraduates enroll in health insurance at UC Berkeley, which has required the insurance since 1990. Both UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz have reported that many students enroll in the plans because their parents' HMO provides only very limited out-of-area coverage, leaving students without coverage in the event of serious injury or illness. Confronted with this dilemma, students whose parents live some distance from campus have little choice but to drop out of school and return home.

The new campus-based insurance plans will not replace the primary medical care, mental health and referral services provided by the student health services.

Depending on the campus, between 55 percent and 90 percent of all students use their student health services at least once while they attend the university.

During the 1997 and 1998 academic school years, there were close to 372,000 student visits, 245,000 laboratory procedures, 16,000 radiology procedures and 164,5000 pharmacy prescriptions.

Upper respiratory tract infections, musculoskeletal injuries, routine or non-routine gynecological care and dermatologic conditions are common. While traditional health concerns continue, clinicians also are treating an increasing number of students with chronic and complex medical and mental health conditions and conditions affecting older adults, according to the report.

Campus health services report that they are treating increasingly diverse students with health care needs that differ from earlier populations. Students also now include increased numbers of international students, first generation immigrants, single parents, ethnic minorities, physically challenged and older students with special needs.

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