Before you pay that tuition bill from Michigan State University this month, you may want to take a second look before cutting a check.  

Starting this semester, more than 11,000 students will be required to have health insurance; and if they don’t, the university will give it to them - and charge for it.

Programs like this have long been in place for international students, graduate students, plus anyone attending medical and veterinary school, according to Kent Cassella, MSU’s Director of Media Communications.  Now the plan will be phased in for all students, starting with the current freshman class and any new undergrads.

‘This is a public health issue for us,” says Cassella.  “The financial risks to students are real.”

He says most students already have coverage, but if they don’t prove it by February 29, they’ll be automatically enrolled in the university's plan and charged more than $1500 per year. 

Since they announced the requirement last fall, MSU has sent several emails to students, mailed a letter home, put signs up around campus, and explained the program during parent and student orientations, yet the school is still waiting to hear from roughly 700 students.

“The students just have to go online and tell us whether or not they have health insurance, if they don’t, there’s a couple different options they can select,” explains Cassella.

Some students already had more than $900 tacked onto their tuition bill this month, but Freshman Joshua Shaver says it was easy to get a refund.

“(The University added) the money onto my account and they said, ‘this is your health plan, you’re going to be on it,’” says Shaver.  “I said ‘well, I don’t want to be on this.’”  He says he had to fill out a few forms, and a couple days later a refund check was in the mail.

Cassella says, last year, 29 MSU students made medical claims for more than $25,000 dollars each.

“The number one cause for students having to drop out of college is due to uninsured healthcare costs from unexpected illness or accident.”

He adds by requiring the health insurance, Spartans can roll the cost into their financial aid; protecting not only the State’s financial investment, but also alleviate risk to students.

“We know that we can look out for the students’ best interest and make sure that they have access to that healthcare,” Cassella says.  “That will ensure their success here at MSU.”

In a statement released earlier this month, Michigan Representative Kevin Cotter (R)-Mt. Pleasant says the plan is another burden to Michigan’s working families.

Cotter says, “The new MSU mandate increases costs on students and families who must already find a way to pay for recent increases in tuition,” adding there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the plan.   Cotter requested a public hearing on February 15.

Many students agree and say they want a choice. 

“I believe that it should not be added on to our tuition at all,” says senior Brittney Deruiter.  “We should have the choice to decide if we want that healthcare or not.”

Cassella says while MSU is the first public university in Michigan to require students to have health insurance, the Big Ten already has five other schools with similar programs.   He says because of the school’s size, they’re able to offer much cheaper coverage to students at around $1500 per year.