Student Health Center to bill students for office visits

The center will require payments for most previously free services starting July 1.

The Student Health Center will being charging students for consultations starting July 1 but will keep mental health procedures the same.

Due to increasing health care costs, the center will require students to pay for visits in addition to the prepaid health fee that previously covered those visits. According to a statement released by the Graduate Professional Council and Missouri Students Association, students will not see any changes to bills for mental health services.

For students with insurance, the consultations will be billed through their insurance companies. Students without insurance will receive a 45 percent discount on their consultation fee.

“The cost of administering health care continues to increase, and the health center’s expenses are outpacing revenue,” MU spokeswoman Liz McCune said in an email. “The reasons for those increased costs include everything from the salaries for health care providers to mandatory expenses such as medical malpractice insurance.”

The university will still require students enrolled in at least seven credit hours to pay the $102 prepaid health fee.

Currently, students receive unlimited free consultations and up to four free psychologist visits per semester, but they must pay for additional medical procedures.

Behavioral health services such as psychiatric assessments, medication management and counseling will follow the health center’s existing billing policy. Additionally, the new Student Health Center guidelines do not affect the free services the Counseling Center provides, as the Counseling Center is separate from the Student Health Center.

By charging for office visits, McCune said, the health center expects to generate more income and allow for enhanced treatment.

“As a result, many students will see a reduction in out-of-pocket costs should they need care that goes beyond a basic consultation,” McCune said. “This includes procedures like getting stitches, removal of an ingrown toenail and administration of IV medications and fluids.”

Currently, only students using the Aetna Student Health plan receive coverage for immediate procedures. With the new billing policy, 19 state and national insurance plans will have contracts with the health center.

“For the vast majority of students, these procedures were billed as out-of-network expenses, while many others elected to wait to have these issues taken care of until they could see their hometown doctors,” McCune said. “Now, many students will be able to have their medical needs met in one visit with lower out-of-pocket expenses.”

Other health resources such as the Student Health Advisory Council and Sexual Health Advocate Peer Education will still be available under the prepaid health fee.

Students will also need to bring a physical or copied version of their insurance card to every appointment, according to the health center’s website. With the new model, this provides information such as a student’s necessary co-pay per appointment.

Some students said they will be less likely to go to the health center to avoid unnecessary payments.

“I’d probably try and sit it out if I thought I was sick,” freshman Caroline Shey said. “Before I never thought it necessary to use it, and now I definitely probably wouldn’t because that’s kind of expensive.”

Chemistry doctoral student Velaphi Thipe said he is not in favor of the new consultation fee.

“As for a clinic, I just don’t approve of students having to pay for a checkup,” Thipe said. “I just believe that students should go there if they feel like they are sick because they won’t be productive in classes.”

The prepaid health fee could change in upcoming semesters.

“MU administration plans to recommend a proposal to decrease the fee by seven percent to the Board of Curators,” McCune said. “The board must approve any fee changes. This fee is reviewed annually and will be assessed next year.”

Students concerned with their insurance coverage can call the health center at 573-884-9388. More information can be found on the Student Health website.

Edited by Kyle LaHucik | klahucik@themaneater.com

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