In an attempt to take the sting out of expensive medical bills incurred by uninsured students, Brigham Young University will require students to show proof of medical insurance before enrolling next fall.

"Some students are upset and say it is not right for us to impose medical insurance, but the fact is that many get ill during the year," said Paul Richards, BYU public communications director."Either they don't get medical help because they have no insurance and the illness gets worse, resulting in longer time out, or they seek help from church or welfare sources and the general public ends up paying for it.

"This is a drain on society as a whole. We are asking students to take the initiative and make sure they have adequate insurance. Even minor problems can be major in terms of finances."

A student who fails to show proof of insurance will be placed on the BYU medical plan, which costs $112 a semester.

The BYU Student Health Center is the primary-care facility under the plan, but the plan extends to hospitalization and specialized care with the approval of health center doctors.

"The plan was developed to include things that come along whether they are major or minor because it can knock out the bottom of a student's life," Richards said.

The medical insurance policy was introduced by President Jeffrey Holland in a letter to students.

He said, "Many students each year leave school for economic reasons due to uninsured medical expenses, and many more students miss substantial amounts of classroom instruction because they fail to seek timely medical treatment for illnesses or injuries."

Medical insurance coverage is a problem at the university level because students are out of the umbrella of home and haven't gotten to the point where they realize their responsibility to purchase medical insurance, Richards said.

"They think they will live forever and not get sick. A large proportion of the students go without medical insurance, and that creates a burden on society in general. We are not trying to be parents, we are just protecting society and helping students understand their place in society.

"For $112, they can go without a few tapes and a number of things they think they have to have and really don't need. It makes good sense to have medical insurance. You insure your car and belongings. It is more important to insure yourself."