College Students One Step Closer to Continued Coverage in the Event of Medical Leave

July 9, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- July 9, 2008 -- Full-time college students across the country and their families are one step closer to having protections in place so they don’t have to choose between education and health care coverage in the event of a medical emergency.  The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee voted in support of Michelle’s Law (H.R. 2851) today, allowing college students to take up to 12 months medical leave without risking being dropped from a parent's insurance plan.

Michelle Morse was a New Hampshire college student who was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2004. Morse was forced to stay in school full-time while undergoing debilitating chemotherapy treatment just to keep her insurance. She ultimately lost her battle to the disease.

“The stark reality is that too many college students face an incredibly difficult and unfair decision in wake of an unexpected medical emergency,” said Daniel E. Smith, president, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).  “This bill eliminates the red tape without forcing students to choose between education and well-being.”

The bill requires students to provide written documentation from a medical professional explaining the need for the temporary leave and would only apply to full-time students who are already dependents on a plan.  The bill would not require insurance companies to cover any new procedures or new individuals it just prohibits them from dropping coverage.

“Life-saving treatment for cancer and other diseases can take a heavy toll on an otherwise healthy individual,” said Laura J. Hilderley, RN, MS, volunteer chair of the ACS CAN board.  “Maintaining full-time student status as a condition of coverage imposes a heavy and unjust burden that no student should be forced to bear, as a means to receiving critical, life-saving treatment.”

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the partner advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society, applauds Chairman Pallone (D-NJ) as well as other members of the Subcommittee for their strong commitment to both health and higher education for generations to come.

If enacted, Michelle’s law could benefit 2,400 college students who will be diagnosed with cancer this year.

ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan partner advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society, dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit

Alissa Havens
Phone: (202) 661-5772
Email: [email protected]

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