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Law passes to protect sick students

As she works frantically on her graphic design project, sophomore Kyndall Lowe realizes she has to stop what she is doing to rush to her next doctor visit. She quickly saves the partially finished homework, grabs her keys and runs out the door to attend her second monthly appointment.

“I have cystic fibrosis,” Lowe said. “It’s not easy, but it’s just another day. Living with CF has always been hard, so going to school, work, etc. is just life.”

Thousands of college students are diagnosed with serious medical conditions every year and must learn to balance their everyday lives with painful and time- consuming treatments. However, before Michelle’s Law was passed in October, some students were forced to balance their everyday lives, medical treatment and their status as full-time students.

Michelle’s Law, which was signed into law by President Bush on Oct. 9, 2008, states that students who are covered under their parent’s insurance by being a full-time student, can take a leave of absence after being diagnosed medically ill and their insurance company will not be able to drop their coverage.

“Current law allows full-time, dependent college students to be covered by their parents’ health insurance plan up to age 22,” said Trista Hargrove, Media Advocacy Associate Director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “Michelle’s Law would allow full-time college students facing a serious medical condition and covered under their parent’s health plan to take up to a one-year medical leave of absence so they can focus on their treatment without the risk of losing their health coverage.”

Michelle’s Law was named after Michelle Morose, a college student at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. She was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2003, was forced to remain a full-time student in order to keep her health insurance, despite doctor’s recommendations, and later died on Nov. 10, 2005.

Michelle’s law covers most serious illnesses ranging from cancer to diseases like Lowe’s cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. A defective gene causes the body to produce unusually thick, sticky mucus that leads to life threatening lung infections as well as other serious conditions. Lowe said the disease requires lots of time and management.

“Long story short, I have to take about four to five hours of meds every day, even more if I have an infection, and I have doctors visits about one to two times a month,” Lowe said. “I’m also currently going through a lung transplant evaluation, so that makes the doctors visits even more often.”

Lowe said she only takes about nine to 10 hours of classes a semester, which makes it easier to deal with medications, work and school.

Hargrove said that Michelle’s Law could benefit an estimated 2,400 college students diagnosed with cancer this year; it would also benefit college students facing other serious medical conditions.

“Michelle’s law will be a help to full-time college students facing a serious medical condition such as cancer, as well as their families,” Hargrove said. “It will allow them to focus on getting better without the added burden of having to carry a full-time course load just to keep their health coverage.”

Another TJC student who has faced this issue is Ricky Stanley. Stanley said his insurance company tried to drop his coverage after he dropped some of his classes because of a continuing medical disorder.

“They just sent a form letter. It said something to the effect of, ‘unless you are enrolled in school full-time, we won’t pay for any of your doctors visits,'” Stanley said. “The insurance company should pay. It isn’t your fault that you get sick.”

Michelle’s Law was being pushed through the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Paul Hodes (D-NH) and Mike Castle (R-DE) and was passed by the House in July of 2008.

The bill was pushed through the Senate by Senators John Sununu (R-NH), Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY).

The senate passed the bill in September of 2008.

For more information or background about the bill, go to http://www.michelleslaw.com.

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