Insurance requirement angers int'l students

By Michelle J. Jones
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 25, 1996

International students had the chance last night to tell administrators why they think the UA policy requiring them to purchase the university's health insurance is unfair.

About 20 students attended the meeting, which featured a panel of presenters who answered student questions. Murray DeArmond, director of the Campus Health Center; Joyce Meder, a clinic administrator at the Campus Health Center and David Currey, assistant director for the Center for Global Student Programs, participated in the panel.

DeArmond said the premise behind the UA policy comes from a 1993 federal government regulation that requires international students under certain types of visas to carry uninterrupted health insurance during their stay in the United States.

The federal regulations have minimum benefits that must be met by insurance carried by international students, DeArmond said. These are a minimum of $50,000 of coverage per accident or illness, a "reasonable" waiting period for pre-existing exclusions, medical evacuation coverage up to $10,000 and repatriation fees of up to $7,500, he said.

Repatriation fees cover the expenses to transport a deceased student back to his native country. A waiting period of around a year is standard before insurance coverage begins on a pre-existing condition, DeArmond said.

"Each university decided how to address these new regulations, and the UA lawyers determined that all non-sponsored international students must take the UA plan, regardless of their visa type, even though the federal regulation applies only to J-visas," he said.

A J1 visa covers people in the United States on a short-term basis, including students, professors, scholars and researchers, Currey said. He said an F1 visa, on the other hand, covers students who are not planning to emigrate to the United States.

Meder said the UA policy applies to students with F1 visas as well because the university's lawyers determined that way the university's policy does not discriminate between different groups of international students, much in the same way the university cannot require only students from certain countries to buy the insurance.

Maria Karlsson Gillespie, international student from Sweden, said she is upset about the requirement because insurance in Sweden is covered by the government and health care is free. She said the Swedish government requires that students going abroad must have insurance, which meets the UA regulations, yet they still have to pay for the university insurance.

"So instead of keeping my good insurance, I have to take yours?" she asked the panelists.

"It's unfortunate, but yes," Meder said. "I'm not saying that we agree with the university policy, but it's what's there and this is how it works for now."

DeArmond said the university has such a strict policy because it is responsible if a student requires medical attention and they do not have insurance. The university would have to pay all of the medical expenses as well as a $50,000 fine to the federal government, he said.

One reason the university stopped waiving the insurance for those providing proof of another carrier, DeArmond said, was because in the United States, a person has the right to cancel a policy and get a refund at any time without the university's knowledge.

Gillespie said the university should implement a program through which an outside insurance provider could supply the school with a letter stating that a policy carried by a certain student could not be canceled, and that coverage would extend through a specified date.

Students also said they thought the $50,000 maximum coverage for an accident or hospital stay was unreasonably low, but said that for the 12,000 or so students enrolled in the plan at the three state universities, which all have the same requirements, maybe 10 of those would exceed the limit. She said students could seek an insurance broker in town who would "reinsure" them, or sell them a policy designed only for coverage above $50,000.

"I think the university and its employees are too much centered on their point-of-view," said Thomas Dornis, business and public administration student. "We need to have the possibility to choose what we want because I could get much better insurance without paying in Germany."