By Kate Ayers and Andrea Pyka

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 45 million Americans without health care coverage.Options for those without insurance are limited to emergency room use. This problem does not pertain to students at UC Santa Cruz, however, because all students are required to have health insurance in order to enroll at the university. All students are automatically enrolled in the university sponsored Undergraduate Student Health Insurance Plan (USHIP) or Graduate Student Health Insurance Plan (GSHIP), unless they choose to submit an insurance waiver in favor of their own private health insurance plan. Diane Mesa, insurance assistant at the Student Health Center, said that the majority of UCSC students have the on-campus health plan. "Freshman parents want their children to have easy access to a health center," she said. According to Mesa there are an estimated 9,050 undergraduate students who are on the on-campus student health plan, leaving 6,325 with their own private insurance plans.But at $315 a quarter, student health insurance is very costly for some.Those who cannot afford the school’s insurance and do not have insurance of their own have the option of purchasing CruzCare, which provides unlimited Student Health Center visits for $36 a quarter. CruzCare does not, however, cover medications, immunizations or off-campus care. Students with UCSC insurance are expected to use the on-campus health center, but due to limited hours (the health center is closed on Sundays), students making emergency visits when the office is closed are re-directed to private offices downtown where UCSC insurance can be used. Rolana Bentz, a forth-year student at UCSC, does not use campus insurance."It’s nice to have the option of waiving the UCSC health plan if you have outside insurance," she said. On the other hand, Bentz believes it’s nice knowing that there is a health center so close that offers proper treatment for all students. "I wish there was free health care for everyone, but I know the health center cannot control that," said Bentz.John Garamendi, insurance commissioner for the state of California, feels the state could face a health care crisis in the near future. In 2005 he compiled a report titled "Priced Out: Health Care in California" that outlines issues surrounding the current state of health insurance in California. Garamendi believes costs for health insurance need to be lowered, otherwise the system will break down. "We are already well on our way to having an inequitable health care system where the wealthy live and prosper while others are priced out," according Garamendi. High prices not only infiltrate the UCSC campus, but affect the city as well.Laura*, Supervisor of Patient Accounting at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, has noticed problems with health insurance."Speaking from a patient’s view, insurance doesn’t cover most services. It depends on what the patient can pay," she said. "Some services only include hospital benefits, so doctor’s visits aren’t covered." Laura added that Dominican Hospital will see patients with or without insurance. "We have a scale based on [patients’] income that is like charity; they can pay a percentage of their bill," she said. "The rest of the cost becomes a write-off." Laura said that many Americans are not provided with the best insurance options. Insurance in the state has become more expensive, and benefits have continued to shrink. In addition the average American is often over the income level required to get federal assistance.According to Laura, "the middle-cost people are the ones who are left out."For more information about the on campus health insurance visit the website at*last name not provided to protect privacy