Camila Fernandez/Assistant News Director
Four weeks ago, Daniel Soraluz, a senior information technology major, sprained his ankle playing indoor soccer. Rather than paying a visit to see his own doctor, Soraluz learned that his tuition covered free physical therapy on campus.
With a pending merger between Student Health Services and FIU Health Faculty Group Practice, many students continue to be unaware of the force that tends to their medical needs.
“I didn’t know they offered physical therapy, and I didn’t know if the [check up] was going to be free or not,” he said. “I knew I paid a health service fee, but I didn’t know how far that went.”
At the Modesto A. Maidique Campus, out of the 50,000 students who attend FIU, only half have made encounters with its SHS Clinic, and only about 2,000 at the Biscayne Bay Campus clinic, according to SHS.
At the request of the University Board of Trustees, FIU health and SHS are working together to increase student awareness and make the best of University health services for both students, faculty and staff.
While SHS only caters to students, FIU health is a private faculty practice run by the College of Medicine. It is not covered by student health fees, meaning it is available to anyone in the community — like visiting a doctor outside the University.
“The idea is that there would be a single standard for delivering of healthcare on the campus wherever it happens,” said Yolangel Hernandez-Suarez, chief executive officer of FIU Health Care Network.
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 $177.75.
Hernandez-Suarez is member of the University Health Task Force, a committee under the Board of Trustees. Alongside Student Government Council President at MMC, Alexis Calatayud, the committee is also working to inform students what insurance options they may have under the Affordable Care Act and if they are eligible for Medicaid.
By the end of fall, students will be given a 15-question survey to assess their access to medical insurance and what the University can do in response, said Calatayud.
“We still need to provide services through a ‘safety net’, like the health fee that allows you to access service even if you don’t have insurance,” Hernandez-Suarez said. “Students have long been an uninsured part of our population all over the U.S.,” she said.
This is especially important for students with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma or sickle cell disease that require expensive care.
According to an August 2014 data collected by the FIU Healthcare Network during Week of Welcome, out 460 students surveyed, 70 percent were insured — 47 percent of which through their parents’ insurance.
However, despite the benefits that SHS offers through the health fee, students don’t seem to take as much interest.
“Some people see [looking for information] as a burden since they don’t have the time,” said Soraluz. “Or they they think they don’t have the time.”
Therese Boyd, director of SHS at BBC, said that a merger with FIU Health would give greater access to student health services at BBC. She said that since there is a smaller volume of students at the BBC, there are more limited resources there than at MMC.
“The problem for students at BBC is that you don’t want them to travel 30 miles [to get service],” Boyd said.
Kevin Garrick, a junior sociology major, said SHS at the BBC referred him to the MMC one because no one was able to attend to his skin problem there.
Without insurance, Garrick knew that he could use student health fee to receive medical attention.
Boyd said that SHS at BBC lacks a gynecologist, a pharmacy and an acupuncture physician. For Garrick, there is only one dermatologist and is located at MMC.
Nevertheless, Boyd said services at BBC are basically the same to those at MMC.