Pending the results of the November 2 election, the Colorado School of Mines may not be able to require students to purchase health insurance plans. Colorado constitutional amendment 63 would allow individuals and families to opt out of health insurance plans, choosing instead to be uninsured. Amendment 63 is a response to Massachusetts’ moves to make health insurance mandatory for everyone and allowing the government to choose the type of health coverage you purchase. Colorado amendment 63 would allow Colorado residents to choose whether or not to purchase health insurance.
Peter Han, Chief of Staff for CSM President Bill Scoggins, commented that “if amendment 63 passes, we would not be able to require certain fees… we would not be able to require health insurance [to attend Mines].” Han said that while he is unsure exactly how much health insurance at Mines would change, the impact is sure to be felt by students. Initially, it would seem that this amendment would be a good thing, because having optional health insurance would save some students a fair amount of money. Currently, Mines health insurance is provided through United HealthCare at a fairly affordable rate, only several hundred dollars per semester. Most health insurance providers charge up to thousands of dollars a year for comparable coverage and generally don’t provide the convenience currently available at CSM.
Under the current state law, everyone that attends Mines must have health insurance, and they cannot opt out unless they can prove that they have health insurance under another provider. This raises the immediate cost of attendance for those who pay the majority of their expenses out of pocket, while not giving another alternative for health insurance. The school’s plan is the only choice, and it can’t be tailored to fit each individual student’s needs. Amendment 63 would enable the student to choose to not have health insurance, or to choose a health-sharing plan that does not qualify as health insurance but does provide for emergency needs.
Han cautions students that it’s not as simple as having lower fees, “Students generally think about the immediate needs, and may just see this and think their costs will go down.” The reality is that, while you will no longer have to purchase health insurance to attend Mines, other costs may have to go up to compensate for the decreased enrollment in the Mines health insurance plan. It is not as simple as not having health insurance; there are hidden costs that the school does not yet understand fully. Perhaps costs directly associated with Mines may decrease, but costs associated with other areas of living may actually increase.
Jon Caldara, head of the Independence Institute and a main supporter behind amendment 63, states that “Colorado has a right to decide how we choose to deal with health care. And it is my goal to make sure that Washington doesn’t jam Obamacare down the throats of Coloradans.” Amendment 63 was drafted with the singular purpose of allowing Colorado residents the freedom to choose their own health care and if they choose, to have no health care at all.
One strong argument in opposition to amendment 63 is that without universal health insurance, emergency care will not be available to the uninsured. Hospitals will not be allowed to open their emergency rooms to the fatally injured until proof of ability to pay is offered. Caldara argues that amendment 63 would not change how emergency rooms deal with patients, but would allow patients the freedom to choose how they want to pay for their health care.
Other opponents to amendment 63 say that we would experience an increase in health care costs, due to the limited enrollment in health insurance. The insured would have to bear to cost of the uninsured. The Independence Institute claims that, due to the massive tax subsidies required to pay for universal health care, overall costs would go down. Under universal health care, the state government would have to spend an estimated $3 Billion to pay for those that are ruled to be unable to afford health insurance. Amendment 63 immediately increases the cost of health care to those insured, while in the long run lowering the tax burden.
Amendment 63 would provide individuals with the freedom to choose what kind of health care they think they need, while not forcing them to purchase coverage they won’t use or can’t afford. College students will be among those most affected by this amendment, should it pass, and should therefore be aware of how their insurance could change. Many schools, including Mines, may not be able to offer health insurance at all, if amendment 63 passes. “We would try to offer health insurance, but it depends on what we can do in the market. Prices and the availability [of health insurance] would fluctuate based on the market” Han said.
It is the responsibilities of students to determine what best meets their needs, and if you think that you would be better served by universal health care, vote no on amendment 63. If you would like to choose to have no health insurance, and be given the freedom to use an alternative provider for your health care, then vote yes on 63. The state of Colorado has enough college students to have a significant effect on the outcome of the election on November 2, and if you decide that you want to affect change, get out and vote.