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Senators Sununu, Clinton, Gregg Introduce "Michelle's Law" to Ensure College Students Have Access to Medical Leave


Contact: Barbara Riley/Jeff Grappone
Thursday, January 25, 2007

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Sununu (R-NH), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and Judd Gregg (R-NH), today introduced a bill to ensure that full-time college students, who receive health insurance as dependents under a parent’s health plan, may take up to twelve months medical leave from college with continued health insurance coverage. New Hampshire adopted a similar law at the state level, known as “Michelle’s Law,” in 2006 after Michelle Morse, a 20 year-old college student at Plymouth State University (New Hampshire) was forced to remain a full-time student despite being treated for advanced colon cancer.

“‘Michelle’s Law’ is the courageous story of how Michelle Morse battled her illness, graduated from college, and ensured that students in similar circumstances in the future are not subjected to what she experienced,” stated Senators Sununu, Clinton and Gregg. “We are proud to introduce a federal version of ‘Michelle’s Law’ today to make sure that full-time students whose health insurance is governed by federal regulations cannot lose their coverage if they take a leave of absence from school for health reasons.”

“On behalf of my family we extend our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Senators Gregg, Sununu, and Clinton for bringing ‘Michelle’s Law’ to the federal level,” said AnnMarie Morse, Michelle’s mother. “‘Michelle’s Law’ will not change the outcome of our situation and may not change the outcome of a college student’s illness or injury. However, it will give the student and family an opportunity to focus on treatment and recovery, not how is COBRA going to be paid. It has been one of our goals to close this unintended gap -- this is a win-win situation for everyone.”

“Michelle’s Law” was enacted in New Hampshire in June 2006 and applies to state-regulated insurance plans. New York enacted similar legislation in 1999. The Sununu-Clinton-Gregg bill covers plans regulated at the federal level by the Employee Retirement Security Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and does not impact other state-regulated insurance plans. The following specific provisions are included in the bi-partisan legislation:

  • Maintains existing health coverage up to one year for full-time student “dependents” – age 18 or older who are enrolled in a post-secondary educational institution – whose leave has been certified by a physician;
  • Should a student’s parents or caregiver switch coverage, a successor ERISA plan that covers dependent care would have to abide by a student’s approved leave of absence;
  • Summer or semester breaks would not disqualify the medical leave.

Michelle Morse was a full-time student at Plymouth State University when she was diagnosed with colon cancer in late 2003. After Michelle’s doctors recommended that she reduce her course load to accommodate chemotherapy treatments, the Morse family discovered that doing so would cause Michelle to lose her health insurance or require her to make COBRA payments of about $550 per month (not including co-payments) in addition to family coverage – more than the family could afford. To keep her health insurance, Michelle remained a full-time student. She died on November 10, 2005.

AnnMarie Morse advocated at the state level for legislation that would allow a college student to take a brief medical leave from school (up to a year) without risking the loss of critical health insurance. In New Hampshire, “Michelle’s Law” enables full-time college students who are covered under a parent’s health insurance to take up to a 12-month medical leave, as determined by a physician.

for more information contact Ann Marie Morse
P.O. Box 6543, Manchester, NH 03108-6543
Phone: 603.587.0422 Mobile Phone: 603.759.3366

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