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Student Health and Wellness Center adds commercial insurance options, new appointment fee

Student Health and Wellness Center adds commercial insurance options, new appointment fee

Student Health and Wellness Center adds commercial insurance options, new appointment fee
August 23
15:28 2019

Illustration by Miranda Thomas

The UNT Student Health and Wellness Center now accepts plans from five commercial insurance providers, resulting in price changes for appointments for both insured and uninsured students.

Students with health insurance can expect to pay copay amounts set by their insurance plan for on-campus appointments, while uninsured students will be required to pay an upfront cost of at least $20 per visit.

Heather Rich, the supervisor of insurance at the SHWC, said more insurance providers and additional office visit fees will allow the clinic to serve the increasing student population of UNT.

“With the increase in population, we have a demand for more providers, for more healthcare and more mental healthcare,” Rich said. “And we aren’t able to meet that demand without one of two things – either raising the medical service fee, which is a requirement for students enrolling in school even if they don’t use the Health Center. Or, we [start] to bill for office visits.”

Rich said the SHWC will accept plans from five major healthcare networks, including United Healthcare, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Multiplan and Cigna, though more providers may become available in January.

SHWC administrators conducted around four years of surveys to gauge interest in commercial insurance options. Rich said that students and families expressed concerns about payment options at the SHWC.

“A lot of parents have their students on their insurance plan as long as they can, which is up to age 26,” Rich said. “One of the things that the [insurance] division really wants to do is be able to provide more access to students who have insurance, while not increasing prices for students who don’t have insurance.”

Prior to the introduction of commercial insurance the SHWC offered no-cost appointments for visits without additional medical testing, like checkups and physicals, funded by the $66.85 Student Medical Services Fee included in tuition.

The announcement of a new upfront fee for each appointment has already gathered attention from some students like converged broadcast media senior Salami Cruz.

Cruz says she has repeatedly visited the SHWC during her two years at UNT partly because they offered no-cost appointments, but the new price changes may inhibit her ability to access healthcare from now on.

“Adding the $20 seems like a slap in the face,” Cruz said. “For example, when you want to get on a medication, you’ll set up the initial appointment and then you need to do follow-ups to continue the prescription or get high dosage. This semester I wanted to talk to my doctor about getting back on anti-depressants and/or trying different types. Now I am afraid I won’t have the ability to afford the appointments.”

According to a 2018 study by the Lookout Mountain Group, a nonpartisan study group of college health professionals, the number of uninsured college students has gone down since the rollout of new insurance programs like the Affordable Care Act.

But that study also shows Texas as one of the states with the highest percentage of uninsured college students, at around 17 percent.

Cruz said she may not have the means to afford a health insurance plan, regardless of the endorsement of commercial insurance by the university.

Some students with health insurance have expressed concern with new fees as well.

Anthropology junior Anders Walkington suffers from a degenerative physical disability that requires enhanced medical attention throughout the month.

After the SHWC began accepting commercial insurance, Walkington stopped visiting.

“Prior to the introduction to the fee I was going [to the SHWC] a couple times a month because I have a physical disability and it’s degenerative,” Walkington said. “Since the fee was introduced I haven’t been able to go because $20 several times a month adds up very quickly. Because of my disability, I can’t bring in a lot of money so often times I end up having to sacrifice going to the doctor to buy [medicine] or go to therapy.”

Even though she does have health insurance through her family’s plan, Walkington said it may make healthcare less affordable for her because of copays.

“I’m sure that there are many more students like me with physical disabilities and mental health problems that have been relying on being able to get free or very cheap services at the Student Health and Wellness Center,” Walkington said. “I’m still on my parents’ insurance and it’s $45 to visit. It’s sort of a lose-lose situation. I can go uninsured and pay $20 multiple times per month. I can go insured and pay $45 multiple times per month. I don’t really have anywhere to go.”

Students may call the SHWC’s insurance help line at 940-369-5446 or email SHWCinsurance@unt.edu with any questions or concerns regarding insurance.

Featured Image: The Student Health and Wellness Center is located on the second floor of UNT’s Chestnut Hall. Image by: Hope Alvarez

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Carter Mize

Carter Mize

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