EAST LANSING (WWJ) – Is Michigan State University’s new mandatory health insurance rule an effort to keep kids in class or a subtle money grab?

The East Lansing-based school announced earlier this month that it would require requiring freshmen to either have health insurance or pay to join a plan through the school.

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MSU said the healthcare insurance mandate is to make sure students are not sick and out of the class, therefore giving them a better chance of graduating. But Republican Representative Bob Genetski, who chairs the House higher education budget subcommittee, is questioning that, calling it “big brotherism.”

“I’m interested in the business model that is telling them that that many kids are missing classes. It looks to me like a clandestine money-maker for the university,” said Genetski.

But the school defends the program, saying it’s the right thing to do.

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“I hope that our universities do try to take care of their students, and that’s what my mother thought when she sent me to Michigan State University many years ago, and I think that’s what parents belive now today. If we don’t feel a responsibility to take care of our students in all ways, particularly academically but  also in terms of their development and emotional development, then I think we’ve failed,” said MSU Provost Kim Wilcox.

If students don’t have insurance, they have the option of buying one of several plans. If they don’t choose one, the school will automatically enroll them in a plan from Aetna. Wilcox said the university-sponsored plan costs $940 for the spring semester and $1,505 for the full academic year — or only about $4 a day.

MSU acknowledged that it is first public university in Michigan to mandate coverage, noting that 25 percent of public universities nationwide have the same requirement. Other public universities in the state recommend that students have health insurance and offer options to buy coverage, but don’t mandate it.

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MSU estimates about 90 percent of its incoming students have health insurance. The school had approximately 47,131 students enrolled last fall.