UHC drops copays in favor of increased general fee

The University Health Center has seen more foot traffic since dropping
visit fees. Friday, September 8, 2023. (Photo by Adam De Lisser)
The University Health Center has seen more foot traffic since dropping visit fees. Friday, September 8, 2023. (Photo by Adam De Lisser)

In an effort to enhance accessibility to medical services on campus, Southern Adventist University’s administration has made a significant policy shift concerning the University Health Center (UHC). In previous years, students seeking medical attention at the UHC incurred a visit fee. However, this year, administration has eliminated this fee and instead is requiring all students taking more than six credits to pay an additional $150 on their general fee. 

The Accent emailed the UHC to find out which services will continue to incur fees and which services will not. The center replied that visitors are no longer charged for standard provider visits, such as travel consults, physicals and mental health visits with a resident nurse practitioner. The increased general fee also covers minor procedure care, including some over-the-counter medication, allergy and flu shots, ear irrigation and wound care, the center wrote. Visitors can freely obtain some durable medical equipment (DME), like ice packs, finger splints, arm slings, elastic support wraps and dressing supplies.

The center emailed that it continues to charge students for prescription medications dispensed through the clinic; vaccines; strep, flu and COVID-19 tests and lab work. Complex procedures — sutures, foreign body removal, wart removal, I&D, and EKG — still incur charges, as well as some durable medical equipment, including ankle braces, knee immobilizers, post op shoe and splints. The center also charges visitors to see the psychiatrist who visits campus weekly. In addition, dependents of students will continue to be charged for services, said Dennis Negrón, vice president for Student Development, who spoke further with the Accent about why administration wanted to make the UHC more accessible to students.

“On a daily basis … students were either calling up [or] walking up [to the UHC] and saying, ‘Do I have to pay for this?’ And when we said ‘yes,’ they would walk away or hang up, and that’s just not okay,” Negrón said.

The UHC is also more accessible now due to the shuttle service on campus, he added.

 “The UHC is not on the shuttle schedule; however, the shuttle will stop at the UHC if a student asks, ‘Will you drop me off there?’ The UHC can also call the shuttle if someone asks them to be picked up on campus,” Negrón said. “The one thing the shuttle doesn’t do right now is pick up students who are sick. They don’t want to have an enclosed small area where a sick person might get other people sick.” 

During the 2017-18 academic year, the UHC saw 4,805 total visits with 1,999 unique individuals. This is the highest total number of visitors the UHC has seen in the last ten years, according to Negrón. He expects to see more visits this year, not because of an increased number of students, but because of greater accessibility to the care students need. 

The UHC has seen an increase in foot traffic already this semester.

“Students are seeking care earlier when sick,” the center wrote to the Accent. “We anticipate that this will continue as the year progresses.”

The UHC also wrote that the increased general fee will help cover its budget, and its staff anticipate that they will break even this academic year. The UHC increased its staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, a budget increase initially covered by government funds. Now, administration’s recent policy change will cover staff salaries, as well as some new services, such as flu shots, and more educational opportunities, such as the center’s new “What about” series.

The change to the UHC health fee will be evaluated twice this school year, according to Negrón. Following the end of each semester, administration will review UHC visits and other relevant data to determine the effectiveness of this policy change.

Editor-in-chief Amanda Blake contributed to this article.

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