House Passage of Bill Would Bring College Students Closer to Continued Health Coverage in the Event of Medical Leave

July 30, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- July 30, 2008 -- For full-time college students facing a medical emergency, the burden of having to choose between education and health care coverage may be one step closer to being alleviated if the House passes legislation that would guarantee coverage regardless of enrollment status.  The House is scheduled to vote on Michelle’s Law (H.R. 2851) today.  The bill would allow some seriously ill college students to take up to 12 months medical leave without risking being dropped from a parent's insurance plan.

The bill is named in honor of Michelle Morse, who was a full-time college student at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.   Diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2004, Michelle was forced to keep a full course load while undergoing debilitating chemotherapy treatment just to stay on her family’s insurance.  She ultimately succumbed to the disease.

“No college student battling a serious illness should be forced to keep a full course load just to receive the health care they need,” said Daniel E. Smith, president, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).  “This bill will enable college students to focus on treatment without worrying about losing their coverage.  We urge the House to pass this critical legislation.”

The bill would require 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.

“Ensuring access to quality health care for all Americans, including college students, is essential to winning the fight against cancer,” said Laura J. Hilderley, RN, MS, volunteer chair of the ACS CAN board.  “Enacting legislation that protects health insurance coverage for seriously ill college students is a step toward achieving this goal.”

ACS CAN, the partner advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society, applauds U.S. Representatives Paul Hodes (D-NH) and Mike Castle (R-DE) for their leadership on this legislation and their strong commitment to both health and higher education for generations to come.

If enacted, Michelle’s law could benefit an estimated 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

Trista Hargrove
Phone: (202) 585-3221
Email: [email protected]

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