Across the country, student health centers are showing signs of financial bloat and costly mission creep. Funded by both hefty campus health fees and payments from students' insurers, university health centers spend their extra cash on boutique services and progressive programs.The answer to the question "why do they do that?" is simple--"because they can."
In universities' early days, the campus infirmary was simple. As a primary care practice on campus, it was a convenience for students who caught the flu or a cold at school. The infirmary's services were available to insured and uninsured alike. Now, however, all students must carry health insurance. Many schools, including the 16 campuses of the University of North Carolina system, put in place an "individual mandate" years before the Affordable Care Act. With the Act's passage, all students must be insured.
And they are--often with "Gold" plans that cover everything from maternity care, to prescription drugs, to substance abuse counseling. If they use the student health center, students' co-pays are waived. But at many schools, they pay through the nose for the privilege. Saving $25 in co-pays hardly seems to justify paying health fees ranging from $50 to nearly $1,000.
Harvard and Stanford are two of the worst offenders. At Harvard, the student health fee is $958.00. Health insurance, which students must also purchase, is $2,190. At Stanford, the fee is a more modest $573 for the 2014-15 academic year. But the student health insurance plan costs a whopping $3,936 per student!...
And in any case most "young invincibles" rarely go to the doctor. That's why they're so valuable as sign-ups in the Affordable Care marketplace. If not doctor visits, then what are students' health fees actually paying for?
At many student health centers, fees go to promote progressive causes, including social justice, diversity, and an "anything goes" attitude towards sex. Many of the services offered are only tangentially related to student health.
At UF, the fee funds the Counseling and Wellness Center, a division of student affairs whose work includes outreach on diversity issues, social justice, and international initiatives. One of the Center's initiatives is "Que Pasa," a workshop series that "allows students to reflect on issues that matter to them." The Center also provides diversity presentations on "Multicultural Expressions of Spirituality," "To Be or Not To Be...Out in the Workplace?" and "Constructing Race and Ethnicity in the 21st Century." This semester, the Center is hosting workshops on the "Do's and Don'ts of Getting Over a Breakup," reducing test anxiety, and building social confidence.
At Harvard, the $958.00 health fee funds a range of health services from allergy treatment to ultrasounds. Students who pay the fee have access to discounted rates on massage and acupuncture through the Center for Wellness. The Center also provides "wellness proctors" for each dorm, sponsors a farmer's market, and hosts an online "virtual relaxation room" and workshops on aromatherapy, meditation, and knitting...
At a time when tuition and fees have been increasing faster than the rate of inflation, it's important for students and parents to get the most bang for their healthcare buck. At many schools across the country, that's not happening. It's time for these "health centers" to get a serious check-up.
Friday, May 02, 2014
In Yet Another Surprise, Colleges Are Wasting Student Health Fee Money
Government is in higher education up to the gills, does anyone think our higher education system is run efficiently?