University Board of Trustees, health insurance and fairgrounds

Video courtesy of Camila Fernandez

Camila Fernandez / Assistant News Director

Plans regarding student health requirements at the University and decisions on the fairgrounds expansion were brought forward on the Sept. 10 Board of Trustees meetings.

It is anticipated that 30 percent of University students are uninsured, said Yolangel Hernandez Suarez, associate dean for Graduate Medical Education at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine.

Under the Affordable Care Act, to offer students health coverage like Medicaid, certain requirements need to be met for eligibility.

Eligibility differs from state to state, with Florida favoring Medicaid for children and pregnant women.

“So for adults who are not women, who are not pregnant, and who do not have children, Medicaid is not going to solve this problem [for uninsured students],” said Hernandez Suarez.

Those students who do qualify are covered.

The University Health Affairs Task Force is working to bring new values to Student Health Services with the collaboration of FIU Health.

It wants to optimize student health services that are being offered under the University health fee, and educate students—particularly to those with chronic illness—on the benefits of health insurance and where students can get it.

According to Hernandez Suarez, there are illnesses that affect student age groups, like sickle cell and lupus, that need chronic care.

The task force is working alongside Alexis Calatayud, Student Government Council president of Modesto Maidique Campus, to develop a survey to have a better understanding of how many students are uninsured.

“As the [social] safety net becomes smaller, it’s going to be more challenging for us to get services for students,” said Hernandez Suarez.

As the social safety net decreases, so do the number of fee waivers and exemptions for health care, schooling and utilities.

FIU has the fourth lowest student health fee in the Florida State University System at $93.69 per term for a 12 credit full-time student. The state average is $117.75.

Also at the meetings, Associate Vice President of Business and Finance, Aime Martinez, talked about the delays in the construction of the new residence halls at Biscayne Bay Campus.

The project opening date has been delayed to fall 2016. It was scheduled to open this coming year.

“We had a very tight timeline,” said Martinez. “When financing and the project [timeline] are not completed according to schedule, it’s pretty much impossible [to meet the date].”

Despite delays in the BBC on-campus housing plans, the University moves forward with acquiring the fairgrounds.

Now that the University expansion plan will be on the November ballot, University President Mark Rosenberg said he will be the sole spokesperson and University employees cannot continue to be involved in the progress.

“University employees, other than the president, and there is an exception in the statute for the head of the governmental agency, are prohibited from participating in political activity,” said University General Counsel, Kristina Raattama.

They cannot be involved on University time, on University resources, and on University property.

If employees are questioned by media, there will be a guide by the University as to what they can do.

However, they are not regulated during free time at nights and weekends. So there is a way to continue being involved, said Board of Trustees Chair, Albert Maury.

The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners agreed to include the University’s expansion plan in a countrywide referendum during the Nov. 4 general elections.

According to Rosenberg, the University is working directly with the County and not the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition, Inc.

“This is a framework for a University-County relationship. It does not involve the youth fair,” said Rosenberg in reference to the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding between the University, the County, and the Fair.

“They’ve been very explicit about that.”

The County is the landlord, so they have their contractual obligation with the Youth Fair.

In about seven years, Modesto A. Maidique Campus will not have enough grounds for further expansion, Rosenberg said, so the land is needed to expand.

Maury said that land acquisition does not mean FIU taking over the park land.

Rather, the University, the County, the Fair, and the broader community will benefit from this process.

In a previous Student Media interview, Rosenberg said,“This is about more and better jobs and educational opportunities for our community.”

“We look forward to making significant progress to find a win-win-win solution.”


About the Author

Camila Fernandez
A FIU School of Journalism and Mass Communications Student - Began working with Student Media in 2013.

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