Students struggle with insurance, paying for healthcare

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Photo Credit: Gabriel Lopez | Daily Texan Staff

University Health Services offers options for students regardless of whether or not their insurance is accepted by UHS or if they do not have insurance at all.  

Business sophomore Ellena Beltran experienced insurance issues with her health maintenance organization, or HMO, plan because it was not accepted by UHS. She said her sessions with an integrated health counselor cost her $50 per hour, and she eventually stopped treatment because she “didn’t want to pay anymore.”

“They definitely try to give me discounted rates, but I don’t get the charge immediately to my account because I’m out of network with them,” Beltran said. “Sometimes, I have to wait two weeks or even a month for a charge to appear on my account, and they don’t tell me when it’s there. I’ve missed a few payments. They’ve gone past due, and I’ve had another charge.”

Undeclared sophomore Sarah Harper also has an HMO plan and has been unable to use UHS at all due to financial difficulties despite discounts.

“I am a first-generation college student, so I pay for everything on my own,” Harper said. “What the insurance does cover, the leftover, the copays, is still like $15-20, which I just don’t have.”

UHS bills students under their ‘What I Owe’ page if they are unable to pay the day of their appointment. Sherry Bell, UHS consumer education and outreach coordinator, said UHS offers various discounts on all services for students with insurance issues depending on their financial situation. 

“If it’s related to a physical exam office visit, a women’s annual exam office visit or any kind of medical clearance, we can offer (up to a) 50 percent discount of the student’s financial responsibility,” Bell said. “We can (also) offer deeper discounts for appointments with a dietitian, for STI tests performed here in our laboratory and for medical equipment.”

Bell said the AcademicBlue Student Health Plan is an affordable insurance for any student within the UT system. UHS doesn’t directly sell the plan, but Bell said it is posted on their website to provide students access to healthcare. Spring enrollment for the plan opens Nov. 1. 

“The cool thing about that is that with very, very few exceptions, it pays for everything that’s done at UHS,” Bell said. “Once (students) go outside of UHS, they’re going to assume some costs, but those costs are very reasonable considering some of the lower cost insurance plans that are on the market.”

Kimberly Lee, communication and leadership freshman, attempted to enroll in this plan but has been unable to turn in her paperwork since it is not accepted at UHS.

“There was nothing on the website,” Lee said of the UT student health insurance page. “I’m probably going to have to call them during office hours, but I’m usually in class.”

UHS charges a $10 fee for most appointments to access a healthcare provider, offers service discounts and allows payment plans for service, Bell said.

“Unfortunately, healthcare in the United States comes with a cost, and the cost of insurance is part of it,” Bell said. “Our whole purpose for being here is to help students stay in school.”