Can’t afford the health center?

Kim Thompson

Insurance companies will be billed

If the DeWeese Health Center was a fast-food restaurant, it has done the equivalent of spicing up its value menu.

But in health center terms, the menu is ways students can pay for services.

Instead of the old burger and fries menu of cash, check, credit card or charges to students’ Bursar’s account, University Health Services has decided to bill students’ insurance companies directly.

The change, which will happen by this fall, allows University Health Services to deliver a value to students, said Mary Reeves, director of University Health Services.

But Kevin Folk, senator for Business and Finance, said the health center’s current billing method is time efficient, and he said he hopes the new billing process doesn’t change that.

“I’ve gone to the health center a couple times,” Folk said. “You’re in, and you’re out. I really like the system that’s in place.”

If it hadn’t made the change, University Health Services would have had to increase the amount students pay for services, Reeves said.

Prices must rise because of increases in the costs of supplies and laboratory tests, Reeves said. By billing insurance companies, students won’t feel the burden of the increases.

“We are really working hard to not pass that along to students,” Reeves said. “If we can bill insurance companies, it benefits us and benefits the students by keeping students’ out-of-pocket costs down.”

The amount the health center will charge insurance companies is still unclear, but Reeves said the new prices won’t affect students without health insurance.

“There will be a charge submitted to insurance,” Reeves said. “Students who don’t have insurance will not receive that charge.”

Those with insurance will have to add a little fat to their wallets to utilize the billing service, but the fat isn’t cash.

“Students will have to carry an insurance card in order for the health center to bill them,” Reeves said.

But students with insurance won’t necessarily get services free. They’ll still have the co-pay, which is the amount each insurance company requires their patrons to pay up front.

While many insurance companies do not require a co-pay for services, Reeves said some do. University Health Services is still negotiating with insurance companies the amount students will co-pay, but Reeves said the amount will not be more than students pay now.

Another benefit of the change, is the time students will ultimately save, said Dawn Bellino, account clerk at the health center.

Rather than having students mail in their own receipts to their insurance companies, the health center will take care of the billing process, Bellino said.

While Folk said he thinks the current process is convenient, he said he trusts administrators at University Health Services to know what’s best.

“I hope they’re open-minded enough to notice if the system they’re putting into place does not work, that they realize it and change it as soon as possible,” Folk said.

Reeves said the health center isn’t sure which insurance companies will participate yet but thinks the large ones will.

“We will sign up as providers for major insurance companies, but you could still bill as an out-of-network provider,” Reeves said. “We’ll be collecting information from students to see what are the major insurance carriers that our students are enrolled in.”

Contact medicine reporter Kim Thompson at [email protected].