President Signs Bill to Allow College Students to Keep Their Health Coverage in the Event of Medical Leave

October 9, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Oct. 9, 2008 -- President Bush signed into law critical legislation today that protects full-time college students from losing their health insurance in the event of a serious medical condition.  Bush’s approval of Michelle’s Law (HR.2851), which would allow some seriously ill college students to take up to 12 months medical leave from school without the risk of being dropped from a parent's health insurance plan, comes on the heels of unanimous support from Congress. 

The law is named after Michelle Morse, who was a student at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire.   After being diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004, she was forced to remain a full-time student while undergoing debilitating chemotherapy in order to stay on her family’s insurance.  She ultimately lost her battle to the disease.
“Unfortunately far too many college students are forced to stay in school and put their health at risk just to keep their insurance,” said Daniel E. Smith, president, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).   “This law will alleviate the undue burden faced by students having to juggle a full course load and intensive medical treatment. We applaud the President for his support of this important legislation that allows students to keep their coverage when faced with a serious medical condition such as cancer.” 

The law requires that college students provide written documentation from a medical professional explaining the need for the temporary medical leave and only applies to full-time students who are already dependents on a health plan.  The law does not compel insurance companies to cover any new procedures or new individuals it just prevents them from dropping coverage.

“Ensuring access to quality health care for all Americans, including college students, is critical to conquering cancer,” said Laura J. Hilderley, RN, MS, volunteer chair of the ACS CAN board.  “This law will help us move a step closer to achieving this goal.”

Michelle’s law could benefit an estimated 2,400 college students who will be diagnosed with cancer in 2008. 

ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate 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

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