Originally Published in The American Cancer Society
Michelle’s Law started when a full-time student at Plymouth State University, Michelle Morse, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Knowing the toll chemotherapy treatments would take, Michelle’s doctors strongly recommended that she cut back her college course load.
That’s when the Morse family discovered that they were caught in a terrible catch-22. If Michelle cut back, as her doctors recommended, she would either lose her insurance or would have to pay C.O.B.R.A. The premiums for C.O.B.R.A. were approximately $550 a month (not including copays), more than the family could afford.
As both a parent and a teacher, AnnMarie Morse, Michelle's mom, felt that students like Michelle should be allowed a brief medical leave (up to 12 months) during which they could cut back or leave college to concentrate on their health needs – without jeopardizing the insurance they rely on for their treatments. With the help of some legislators, and backed by a number of medical and professional organizations, AnnMarie Morse took the issue to the New Hampshire Legislature.
On June 22, 2006, New Hampshire became the first state to pass Michelle’s Law. Since then, 10 other states have passed some variation of the law. On October 8, 2008, President George W. Bush signed H.R. 2851, making Michelle’s Law a federal law effective October 9, 2009.
Even though Michelle lost her battle in 2005 at the age of 22, Ann Marie has continued to fight back to keep other college students from facing the same decision her daughter had to make. AnnMarie continues her involvement in Relay For Life in her hometown and travels to Relays throughout the country to spread her message and show college students that one person can, in fact, make a difference.