Health insurance a requirement for enrollment

By Ellina Chulpaeff

Harvard-Westlake requires all students to carry health care insurance, regardless of financial circumstances or preference.

Students are not allowed to attend school uninsured and are asked to purchase insurance before enrolling, said Assistant to the Head of Upper School Michelle Bracken, who handles registration materials. Updated healthcare insurance information is requested in the yearly registration package to ensure that students are still covered.

Although Harvard-Westlake is self-insured for student accidents that occur on or off campus when students are involved in school activities, the school is the secondary payer. Thus, the student’s personal insurance pays first, Head of Personnel Marty Greco said.

“We consider this a parental responsibility, not ours,” Director of Financial Aid Geoff Bird said. “Problems do arise, though; parents can lose a job and lose their coverage.”

If a student on financial aid were to be accepted and not have healthcare coverage, or if a parent was to lose their job and as a result, healthcare coverage, the financial aid office would treat the family’s unique situation on a case-by-case basis, Bird said.

“When we accept a student on financial aid here, we feel an obligation to do whatever is reasonable to help that student succeed,” Bird said. “‘Financial Aid’ in many schools means help with tuition, period. Here at H-W it is expanded to cover other required expenses and some other costs that help students and families cope with the real cost of education, not the tip of the iceberg.”

Bird believes this situation to be very rare, although it has happened before. However, because the school believes that healthcare coverage is the responsibility of the family, and not the school, Harvard-Westlake prefers to increase student’s tuition grant rather than getting involved in the actual purchase of insurance.

Harvard-Westlake recommends two types of healthcare insurances to families that cannot withstand the financial burden of high monthly premiums. Anthem Blue Cross has a plan that requires monthly payments that are relatively low. However, this policy has higher deductibles, the amount families are obligated to pay the insurance company before the insurance pays for services. Healthy Families is another relatively inexpensive option that initiated InsureKidsNow, a program designed to provide healthcare insurance to low income families with government money. Healthy Families has a sliding scale and families with different net incomes pay different monthly deductibles, with some as low as $4 per child. A family of four earning less than $44,500 a year can generally qualify for free insurance provided that the children are under 19 years old, live in California, do not qualify for Medi-Cal, and meet citizenship requirements and immigration laws may qualify for this plan.

“This year many parents are changing positions or losing jobs and end up without coverage for a certain period of time,” Bracken said.

According to, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) requires most employers with group health plans to offer employees the opportunity to continue to be insured temporarily after job termination. For many, however, the monthly rates COBRA requires beneficiaries to pay can be expensive, as former employees must now cover the amount their former employers paid for their insurance in addition to the rate they paid every month. This causes some families to opt to stay uninsured between jobs, Bracken said.

Still, some families do not wish to have health insurance because they prefer to use homeopathic remedies for illnesses.

In the past, there have been students who go to the doctor and have all their medical procedures done in other countries, Bracken said. Thus, they feel that they do not need to be insured here. Still, Bracken says that the school recommends lower premium insurances to those students.

“Students need to be insured just in case anything ever happens. The school can only cover a certain amount but the family has to be prepared,” Bracken said.