The Chronicle’s View: Administration needs to resolve health-insurance problem

The student government has a lot of power, a lot of money and plenty of reasons to be taken seriously. However, its formation of a committee to discuss the implementation of a hard waiver on student health insurance is little more than an acid test for those truly culpable in this sticky situation: the administration.

Last April, the Associated Students of the University of Utah Senate and General Assembly passed a resolution mandating that all students show proof of insurance before registering at the U. The basic intent of this action was to lower the cost of the current plan (averaging roughly $80 per month) and attract more bids from competing companies. The local health-insurance market is notoriously poor–because of large families and other contributing social factors–and the U felt forced to make accommodations to attract superior service.

Despite the abetting legislation, no other bids were presented, and the “hard waiver” included in the bill is not yet enforced. Our “winning” carrier, GM Southwest, is losing money, and maintains that its plan won’t provide ideal service unless coverage soon becomes universal at the U. It has warned it might even drop its service altogether.

Meanwhile, the Student Health Advisory Committee says that more than a quarter of U students still lack coverage (defying the current “soft waiver” policy). That’s a large gap to bridge on the whim of companies facing plenty of pressure themselves.

Instead of finding an alternative to their ultimatums, the administration decided to use ASUU as a convenient firewall–initiating action through the student government so that it can catch all the flak if it goes awry.

This strategy illustrates some pretty misguided priorities. While administrators pretend that students have autonomy to decide things like health-insurance policies, their other endeavors aren’t consistent with that notion.

For instance, they commissioned an expensive private study of campus media instead of asking students how they wanted to approach the dissolution of KUTE and the support of other media programs. Why not employ such professionals to explore health-care options?

The answer, it seems, is that manipulation of student media may lead to massive financial gain and will likely be a fine feather in the cap for administrators. On the other hand, health insurance can only lead to financial pratfalls.

Instead of trying to limit potentially egregious losses, it seems the administration is simply attempting to escape unscathed.

Given its unstable, constantly changing nature, ASUU will never build the necessary momentum to challenge the administration or even get a feel for the context of the issue.

As soon as student leaders start to comprehend the intricacies of their office, in come their na’ve replacements, fresh off a dinner and a handshake with administrators.

There’s almost nothing students can do. Unless the administration steps in and takes full responsibility for resolution of the situation, health insurance is going to continue to linger as a serious problem for students and administrators alike.