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Health care options change for students

by Tara Richelo

Last fall, University Health Services (UHS) terminated its contract with United Healthcare Student Resources. The current health insurance plan offered to students runs through Aetna Student Health.

The change occurred after UHS completed a Request for Proposal in order to reevaluate their service with United Healthcare Student Resources. UHS had been unsatisfied and hoped to address some of the problems they and the students had encountered. Specifically, UHS wanted to improve the benefits that were available to students who purchase a UHS plan.

Manager of Student Insurance, Karen Kline, said, “We were looking for the best plan for our students that was going to be compliant with health care reform…Aetna Student Health is looking ahead to health care reform and how things are going to be impacted.”

The Affordable Care Act became a law on March 23, 2010, regulating health insurance requirements between employers and employees. The essential health benefit categories included in the Affordable Care Act include preventive and wellness services, laboratory services, prescription drugs, hospitalization, mental health and substance use, disorder services, maternity and newborn care and several others.

Under the act, health care plans must allow persons under 26 years of age to remain on their parents’ plan, remove lifetime essential benefit limits and eliminate the exclusion of persons under 19 years of age with preexisting conditions.

The new UHS plan with Aetna Student Health is compliant with these requirements.

The overall cost of health insurance provided by University Health Services has increased due to the change in providers. An annual plan costs $2,137, which breaks down to $842 for only fall semester coverage and $1,295 for only spring semester coverage.

Aetna Student Health will now offer a discounted dental section as well as cover acne, assistant surgeons, and multiple office visits on one day, none of which was previously covered. Additionally, the benefits no longer have a yearly maximum putting a dollar limit on the cost for an injury or sickness. Instead, costs will be unlimited.

The cost for prescriptions purchased and filled at UHS are now 100 percent covered through Aetna Student Health. Also, Aetna Student Health will cover 50 percent of prescriptions purchased and filled outside of UHS.

Students who want to use University Health Services for medical needs, but do not have Aetna Student Health, will be billed to their bursar account. Between one and two weeks later, they will receive an e-mail alerting them that their bill is ready. From there, students can print out the bill and send it to their own insurance company for reimbursement.

While it may be difficult for the students to navigate this process, it would be highly unrealistic to expect UHS to handle it for each student. This could be a good opportunity for students to learn to handle another aspect of their rapidly approaching adult lives.

In past years, health insurance offered through the university covered between 8,000 and 9,000 students, including their spouses and children. The number has yet to be finalized for this year.

Given all of the services and affordable pricing UHS offers, students may still have a hard time utilizing them. For the fall semester, UHS is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Weekdays are appointment only and Saturdays are walk-in only. Therefore, if a student falls sick in a short period of time, they might struggle to be seen by UHS. Additionally, the health center’s hours are not conducive to students who may have classes, jobs or internships throughout the morning and afternoon and have more availability during evening hours.

If a student does fall ill quickly, their other options are MedExpress or, in an emergency situation, theMountNittanyMedicalCenter. Neither of these options is particularly useful to students residing on campus or downtown. MedExpress can be reached via the Vairo bus route, andMountNittanyvia the Red Link. While the Red Link is free to use, it stops running at 7 p.m. The Vairo bus line runs later into the evening, but has a $1.50 fee each way. This amount of travel may deter students from seeking immediate treatment when necessary.

Additionally, while the offered services have expanded and improved, Kline fears that students are not fully aware of the plan. UHS communicates with a small portion of parents who have signed up to receive the UHS newsletter and the health center also has access to a list serve of new parents. Other than that, the center relies on students to relay information back to their parents about updates and changes in the plan.

Due to this lack of information, students may be unaware of the procedure of scheduling an appointment as well as going about filing for reimbursement from their insurance company.

Considering the quantity of students living in State College and that these individuals are spending seven or eight months out of the year atPennStatefor four years, many people believe that the university should provide easily accessible healthcare for their students.

Emily Miller, a junior nursing major, has stopped trying to use UHS. After an unsatisfactory experience with their service and insurance reimbursement process, Miller decided to use MedExpress exclusively.

“MedExpress is the fastest, they are the nicest and they accept both of my insurances,” Miller said. “I know [the UHS plan] exists, but I don’t know specifics about it. I just know there is an option for people that don’t already have health care.”

Miller also stated that a brand new health care option may be necessary.

“I think it would be useful to have some kind of different option on campus, besides justPennState,” Miller said. “A facility where you could use other insurances.”

Miller described the difficulties she faced seeking reimbursement in which her insurance required a printed copy of the receipt instead of the e-mailed version provided by UHS. After making several trips to UHS and communicating with her insurance company, she still did not receive the reimbursement in full.

Paula Borra, a senior criminal law justice major, had recent success seeking medical attention from UHS. Borra said that she goes to UHS first because of its convenience and simple billing process.

In addition to her insurance coverage, Borra appreciates the direct billing to her Bursar account because she can cover the payment with loans. As a whole, Borra finds that UHS “has its ups and downs, but it’s mostly fine.”

However, regarding the placement of the building, Borra, who lives off campus, admitted that she has trouble with parking. The Eisenhower parking deck is located nearby, but is reserved exclusively for faculty and staff permit parking during the UHS business hours, thus creating a problem for students.

In addition to the lack of parking, Borra said that the facility is inadequate for the massive number of students attending theUniversity Parkcampus. There are just fewer than 40,000 students atPennStateand she admitted that it might be time to think about another facility location.

“The campus is too big to only have one [health center],” Borra said. “It’s convenient for people who live on campus, but not for people who don’t.”

Recently, Borra used MedExpress on a Sunday when UHS was closed. She admitted that the experience made her think that the center should have emergency hours available on the weekend.

While the University Health Services does its best to provide quality and affordable medical attention, some students feel that there is still room for improvement in order to make it more available and useful to students.

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