Law ensures uninterrupted health insurance for college students

Michelle Morse, a 22-year-old who died of colon cancer in 2005, is the inspiration for a new federal law that permits college students to take up to a year off and retain coverage under their parents' health insurance.

Michelle Morse, a 22-year-old who died of colon cancer in 2005, is the inspiration for a new federal law that permits college students to take up to a year off and retain coverage under their parents' health insurance.

A graduate of Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, Morse was studying to become a teacher when she received a cancer diagnosis in 2003.

Her mother AnnMarie, a teacher herself, was carrying the family's health insurance. The Morse family plan stipulated that dependents were only eligible for coverage if they were full-time college students.

As a result, Michelle had to balance full-time studies with intensive chemotherapy. She died only a few months after graduation.

Told "If you don 't like the law, change it," AnnMarie brought her daughter's story before the New Hampshire legislature. In 2006 New Hampshire passed the law officially called "Michelle's Law." With the endorsements of national organizations like the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association, Michelle's Law was passed by Congress in late 2008.

Underscoring the significance of the health insurance debate, Rep. Paul Hodes of New Hampshire said, "Health care reform is more than words; it affects people."

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Posted: October 19, 2009

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