Fighting Fordham For Better Law Student Health Insurance
Last year, fed up with the inability to pay for a doctor’s visit, a group of five law students began working to improve the health insurance that Fordham offers to its students. We organized a meeting on November 16, 2011 with the Dean of Student Services, Gregory Pappas, and Fordham’s health insurance broker, Joseph Seufer of USI Affinity Collegiate Insurance Resources, to ask what could be done to improve the University’s student health insurance.
Fast forward to this past fall. Not for a lack of effort, the new insurance plan is nearly the same weak, yet expensive option. It still excludes routine physicals and pre-existing conditions, or services otherwise provided by Fordham’s health clinic. It has the exact same pitfalls that yield a satisfaction rate of 20 percent of law students who are on the plan and cause 10 percent of our law students to remain uninsured.
Last year, Dean Pappas and Mr. Seufer said they were shocked that students were unhappy. Rachel Graves, one of the lead student organizers, said, “I spent thousands and thousands of dollars on visits to specialists and prescriptions my first year of law school. I exceeded the prescription cap in just a few months.”
Dean Pappas and Mr. Seufer said that the only feasible way to increase the plan’s benefit offerings without increasing the cost would be to increase the pool of the insured—the same process the Affordable Care Act relies on. In order to do this, Dean Pappas said that an opt-out policy would be required, where law students would be automatically enrolled in a law school-specific insurance plan unless they otherwise have health insurance. But before the Fordham University administration set about creating an opt-out insurance policy, Dean Pappas wanted to make sure that he was not accommodating a vocal minority and asked the students to conduct a survey of the law school.
After two months of planning and administering the survey with Dean Martin and Dean Escalera’s support, 509 law students had weighed in on the state of the University’s health insurance offerings.
The survey evidenced strong support for creating a separate law school health care plan that automatically enrolls students: nearly 75% of respondents said that automatic enrollment in a health insurance plan at Fordham would be a good idea. Two-thirds said they would be more likely to join Fordham insurance if it had more complete coverage.
Despite these robust survey findings, our calls and emails to the university administration were met with silence. The administration sets each academic year’s insurance plan the previous spring, so we redoubled our efforts to obtain a new health insurance option for the law school, but were ignored or repudiated at every turn.
“After we did the work that Dean Pappas asked us to do, he stopped discussing the plans for this year’s insurance with us,” said Rachel Graves. “It is frustrating that our efforts to work with the administration were rebuffed when it was actually time to design this year’s insurance plan.”
Today, everyone in the health insurance industry is figuring out how to comply with the Affordable Care Act. Fordham is no exception. This brings with it renewed hope amongst the group’s members that Fordham will follow what other universities have already implemented, which is the opt-out model that the group proposed last year. Based on other schools that have already implemented this type of plan, approximately 3,000 of Fordham University’s students would enroll, which would allow the premium cost to come down as much as $1,000, while the benefit offerings would be increased in order to comply with ACA’s new standards.
Dean Pappas declined to comment for this article.
Keep an eye out this semester or this summer for a letter from the administration on the new health insurance program. For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/HealthyStudentsHappyStudents.
*The author is a part of Stein Scholar’s Project advocating for better student health insurance.
**A previous version of this article stated that Mr. Seufer declined to comment. Only Dean Pappas declined to comment.
The above article is the opinion of the author alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of Fordham Law nor the Record editorial board and staff.