A lock-in fee proposed by the UCSB Recreation Dept. could help students finance their non-emergency medical bills.

The department is asking an $0.89 per quarter per student fee initiative to raise money for the Student Medical Emergency Relief Fund (SMERF). Money generated by the lock-in would be given to the Jack Canfield Chicken Soup Fund, which helps students pay medical emergencies or needs that they might not be able to afford, such as stitches. If the initiative passes in the upcoming campuswide spring elections, the new fee will come into effect for the Fall 2005 quarter. Paul Lee, Recreation Dept. assistant director, said about 75 percent of the estimated $53,000 raised per year would be awarded to students, and the remaining money would be put back into the fund.

Ashley Auld, a third-year political science major who helped create the initiative, said SMERF would be an invaluable resource for students on a tight budget.

“[SMERF] creates a reserve for students to access if students run into a medical emergency,” Auld said. “You don’t know – it could happen to you. … No one should have to drop out of school [for a medical emergency].”

Currently, both the Undergraduate Student Health Insurance Plan and the Graduate Student Health Insurance Plan do not give students complete coverage, said Shaun Hicks, chair of the SMERF committee. He said students under the university’s insurance plan must still pay for normal eye care and dental care, as well as deductibles.

Lee said the fund would be able to cover those costs.

“Every kind [of emergency] you can think of,” Lee said. “Students beat up in a party fight, surgeries for cancer or bone marrow, eyeglasses, oral surgery and more.”

In order to qualify, students must fill out an application, including a doctor’s signature and a descriptive essay about why they need financial help with their medical expenses. The application is then presented to a Recreation Dept. board, which decides whether or not the student would receive coverage and how much they will be awarded.

The fund currently gives out about $3,000 a year to students, but the department limits its advertising of the fund because there are many requests for help and not all of the requests are paid in full, Lee said.

Lee said he created the endowment nearly 14 years ago to commemorate the death of Kristiansen, a UCSB student and Recreation Dept. employee. Kristiansen died of leukemia after her insurance company refused to pay for the experimental treatments she needed. Lee said Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, initially donated $40,000 after Lee approached him with the idea. The Recreation Dept. also originally donated $10,000.