Health center mulls student fee hike
Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 15:01
A $5 visitation charge may be put in place by June 2014 for normal visits to Beutel as Student Health Services administrators review their budget and potential sources of revenue. Dr. Martha Dannenbaum, Student Health Center director, said this is the approach that will most likely to be taken, as opposed to raising the Health Center Fee on students across the board.
Currently, a normal visit is free of charge, which is made possible by the current Health Center Fee of $72.50 that every student pays as a part of tuition.
“If we were to implement that, it probably would not be more than five dollars, and if we were to implement it, it probably would not be any sooner than June of this year starting for the summer session,” Dannenbaum said. “We are not anticipating requesting a student health fee increase. That is not on our plan at this point in time.”
Dannenbaum said instating a charge for visits would provide a revenue stream that SHS could use to provide merit pay, or bonuses, for their staff. However, the revenue could be used toward any of the costs of operating Beutel, such as renovations on the aging building to accommodate the increasing population of students.
“[Renovations] would be a likely reason that we would add in an office visit charge,” Dannenbaum said. “Not necessarily to support merit, but we’re looking long range that if we’re going to be in this building for another five to 10 years, which we could be, we’ve got some things we’re going to have to do, some renovations.”
A charge for a visit to Beutel is not a completely new notion, as there are already charges on visits for what Dannenbaum called nonessential services such as physical therapy, lab tests and x-rays. Visits for typical symptoms of illness fall under essential services, and Dannenbaum said it is students with these symptoms who may be deterred by the idea of a visitation charge.
“For the student who comes in with cough, sore throat, flu-like symptoms, that’s pretty important and we would really like not for there to be a barrier for them to come in for care,” Dannenbaum said. “Even a small amount of money could be a barrier for some people so as of right now, those services, those visits, they don’t have a cost for the visit for them to come in and see the nurse practitioner.”
While not in the forefront of discussion, Dannenbaum said officials have bounced around the idea of an insurance-only plan, wherein SHS would do away with Health Center Fees and charge a set fee for visits. This would make Beutel similar to a typical doctor’s office, in which payment per visit depends on the insurance of the visitor.
“People think ‘Oh, you can make millions if you just bill their insurance,’” Dannenbaum said. “Well, you can make some money but you have to charge for what you do. We can do that, we know how to do that, but the question is, is that the best for all students? That’s the challenge because we have some who are not insured at all.”
Dannenbaum said the problem found with this is that students would still have to pay the insurance copay and the uninsured would have to pay a fee much larger than what insured people pay.
Although the idea of a visitation charge has been discussed by SHS for three years, the decision to establish any charge is far from set in stone.
“I think we’re probably still 50-50 on it to be honest,” Dannenbaum said. “I’m very interested in hearing the input from students on this topic. If it’s what it has been in the last five years that I’ve done this, there is probably going to be more support for doing something along this line rather than not at all.”
Dannenbaum said everyone will have an opinion over how much it should be, but the ultimate decision will be made in coordination with the vice president’s office.
Student senator and junior political science major, Fernando Sosa, said Dannenbaum has been invited to speak at the Feb. 5 Student Senate meeting, giving students the chance to let their opinion be heard on the matter.
Sosa said he would rather pay a visitation charge than see the Health Center Fee increased on all students.
“Supporting a $5 office visit should be a better compromise than going without an opinion and ending up with a $20 office visit fee or an increase to the Health Center Fee,” Sosa said. “I’m glad Dr. Dannanbaum is interested in getting input from Student Senate, and as student representatives get feedback from students, I’m sure student government will be able to formulate an opinion that best serves the student body.”
Sosa said the opinion of students will likely be divided along how often they visit Beutel.