Affordable Care Act expands student health services

Rebeca Piccardo/Assistant News Director

The student tuition health fee allows students certain health services at little or no cost, but both insured and uninsured students encounter problems seeking medical help on-campus.

“I tried to go when I was sick and didn’t have insurance, but they just referred me to a doctor,” said Natasha Londono, a senior advertising major.

However, now that the Affordable Care Act will offer more options for young adults, more students will have access to health insurance.

The problem for students with health insurance is that the University may not accept their plan, so they would need to go somewhere off-campus to use their insurance.

Aside from what the student health fee covers, Student Health Services currently only accept the school-sponsored insurance plans.

“We are trying to expand the number of insurance plans that we accept,” said Oscar Loynaz, director of Student Health Services.

According to Loynaz, Student Health Services is partnering with the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and the Academic Health Center so that Student Health Services can expand the number of insurance companies they accept.

“For a while, we’ve been trying to get more insurance companies, but it’s a process and we need a lot of administrative support to do that,” said Loynaz.

The school-sponsored insurance plans for domestic and international students are with UnitedHealthcare insurance, which have changed their premiums due to the Affordable Care Act.

While the premiums for international students, graduate assistants and medical students have been raised between last academic year and this year, the premiums for domestic students have been reduced.

According to Loynaz and Gia Hawkins, a billing associate at the Student Health Services, the changes in insurance premiums are attributed to the year’s losses for the insurance company, but more importantly, because the Affordable Care Act is enforcing a certain amount of coverage.

“The Affordable Care Act has a lot of things that the government is forcing the insurance companies to cover for free, which they didn’t before,” said Loynaz.

The University has been part of a state consortium that began in 2010, in which the member schools agree on a broker and an insurance plan in order to bring down costs.

[pullquote]“Hopefully, in the end, the fact that we’re all on the same plan will reduce the premiums for everybody,” said Loynaz.[/pullquote]

Aside from the changes due to the Affordable Care Act, the health services covered by the student health fee will not be affected.

According to Hawkins, there are services for which insured students would be charged co-pay with an in-network provider, but would be free on-campus due to the student health fee.

“If a student comes here for a sick visit, the health fee covers that,” said Hawkins.

While some students claim that the health fee coverage does not cover anything, other students have found the preventative care to be helpful.

Allie DiMeco, a senior journalism major, went during her freshman year thinking she had a stomach virus and she was referred to a hospital due to abdominal swelling.

“I had early appendicitis,” said DiMeco. “The experience was encouraging and I recommend their assistance.”

As far as adding insurance to Student Health Services, Loynaz expects to see results by the end of this fall semester which will encourage students to continue using this service on-campus.

“I think that if students are insured and we can accept those plans, then students would continue to come here because it is a good service, it is a convenient service, it is available on campus,” said Loynaz.

– rebeca.piccardo@fiusm.com

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