TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Barbara Buono which would give college students the ability to opt out of duplicative health insurance coverage offered by institutions of higher education in New Jersey was approved by the Senate Education Committee today by a vote of 3-2.
“As the cost of college continues to rise, and students struggle to pay for higher education around the nation, we need to do everything we can to keep a college education affordable in New Jersey,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “The intent of the current law to require on-campus college students to carry health coverage is not to punish students, but protect the institutions from liability. If the student can prove outside coverage, they should be given the opportunity to decline duplicative coverage, and save themselves and their parents a few dollars on room and board fees.”
The bill, S-2248, would clarify current law to give full-time college students who are already enrolled under a health insurance plan, either by themselves or through their parents, the option to decline health coverage through their institution of higher education. Under the bill, if a student provides evidence of outside health insurance coverage, the college would be required to waive any costs associated with health care coverage at the institution. Currently, all students at colleges and universities are required to maintain basic health insurance coverage either through the university or through an outside source.
“In many cases, students and their parents may be entirely unaware of the additional health services fee charged to on-campus students,” said Senator Buono. “While I think colleges do have an interest in making sure that all enrolled, on-campus students have adequate health insurance, when college-offered health services duplicate the coverage students already pay for, students should given the ability to opt out. The cost of a college education is expensive enough without duplicative and unnecessary fees.”
Senator Buono noted that the impetus for the bill was a case in which a concerned parent within her district contacted her office regarding the mandatory health services fee charged to all Rutgers students as part of the fees charged to on-campus students. While other colleges within the State allow students to opt-out of the health services fee if they can show outside health coverage, Rutgers does not give enrolled students the option. Senator Buono noted the cost of health services varies by university, but falls between $130 to $150 a semester, or $1040 to $1200 for the four years of a standard bachelor-degree program.
“Upon further investigation of the case, I found that with the exception of certain student-athletes, every other college in the State gave students the ability to opt out of coverage – with the exception of Rutgers,” said Senator Buono. “Just like every other college in New Jersey, Rutgers has a responsibility to keep the cost of tuition and room and board down. Through this bill, we would clarify that mandatory health coverage for students who already have health insurance is against the letter, as well as the spirit, of the law.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for approval.