When linguistics sophomore Elizabeth Doyle scheduled an appointment with a registered dietitian at University Health Services in January, she expected to pay $120 out of pocket. But during the appointment, she was thrilled to discover UHS covered half of her responsibility.
“A lot of dietitians are really expensive,” Doyle said. “If you’re looking for nutrition counseling and your insurance won’t cover it, $60 is really reasonable.”
Since January, UHS has been subsidizing 50 percent of the student’s responsibility — which is not covered by insurance — for several services, including nutrition therapy, internal STI testing, durable medical equipments, EpiPens and physical exams.
Physical exams, which includes the annual women’s health exams, were subsidized in response to student feedback and a Daily Texan article published last fall, which found that charges for annual women’s health exams for uninsured students tripled from fall 2016 to 2017.
“We had the feedback from the article and we heard the student voice, and this was an area that we thought we could provide some relief for students,” UHS director Jamie Shutter said.
Shutter said this subsidy was made possible through a change in their insurance billing practices. Previously, a student’s insurance company was billed only $10 for general office visits, regardless of the cost of service. After the change, UHS now bills insurance companies the full amount, generating additional revenue for the subsidy. The student responsibility for general office visits remains $10.
“We saw that this (change) was a win for the students and a win for UHS in terms of getting the additional revenue to be able to support us and continue the work that we do here,” Shutter said.
Not all services are subsidized, and UHS chose to subsidize certain services for students for different reasons, such as cost compared to other providers, Shutter said. Shutter said this subsidy is available for all students, both insured or uninsured, and the only exception is if a student has insurance but chooses not to file.
Lauren Kelley, a speech language pathology senior, has been coming to UHS for the annual women’s health exam since her freshman year.
Kelley said she never had problems with affording the annual exam until last fall, when she changed her insurance to one that does not cover the exam. During that same semester, the cost of the exam had significantly increased.
“The whole point of having a center on campus is (accessibility),” Kelley said. “So it just seems kind of contradictory that they would raise the prices to where students couldn’t afford it.”
Kelley said she is glad UHS is subsidizing for the exam but thinks there should be better communication from UHS about any changes to these charges.
“Whenever that price hike occurred, they didn’t really inform you and they didn’t really say why,” Kelley said. “I didn’t know about it before I made the appointment and went there … so I definitely think there is a gap in communication there.”
Doyle said this subsidy for nutrition services is a step in the right direction for students to get help with eating in an affordable way.
“It’s really important that UT stresses that it’s important to eat right,” Doyle said. “Eating right is how our brains function. And one of the most important things in college is having a functional brain.”