Senate Approves Bill That Would Allow College Students to Keep Their Health Coverage in the Event of Medical Leave

September 25, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sept. 25, 2008 -- Full-time college students facing a medical emergency are closer than ever to having protections in place so they can keep their insurance coverage, regardless of enrollment status.  The Senate today approved Michelle’s Law (H.R. 2851), which would allow some seriously ill college students to take up to 12 months medical leave without the risk of being dropped from a parent's insurance plan. 

The bill 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 treatment just to stay on her family’s insurance.  She ultimately lost her battle to the disease.

“Far too many seriously ill college students are forced to make an incredibly difficult and unfair choice between education and well-being,” said Daniel E. Smith, president, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).   “This bill will help preserve health insurance coverage for these students so they can focus on their treatment without the added burden of a full-time course load.  We thank the Senate for their support of this issue and urge President Bush to sign this bill into law when it reaches his desk.” 

The bill would require students to provide written documentation from a medical professional explaining the need for the temporary medical leave and would only apply to full-time students who are already dependents on a health plan.  The bill would not require 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 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.”

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]

More Press Releases AboutAccess to Health Care