Students, do you know what your
health insurance covers?
By Keegan Garrity
October 24, 2006 | Health care may not be found on
the top of most students' spending lists. After tuition,
gasoline, textbooks, and iPods there just doesn't seem
to be enough left for health care.
a semester, it may be easier to understand why students
choose not to cough up the dough when they aren't even
coughing up phlegm. Many Aggies realize that not having
a health plan can be a big risk. They are not happy
about their lack of insurance, but feel they are forced
to take this risk because of tight budgets.
"[My wife and I] don't even have health care right
now." says recently married student Darrell Cropper,
"We just hope we don't get sick."
Others may just be na´ve or ignorant to the fact that
they have no coverage. There's no need to worry about
health care when I am covered under my parents' health
insurance, right? Not exactly; many health plans extend
coverage only to dependants under age 23. Utah State
enrolls many students who exceed this age, largely due
to the fact that many put their education on hold to
pursue religious service.
Why the high cost? Regence BlueCross BlueShield of
Utah gives 10
reasons why health care is so expensive. One large
factor responsible for the increase in health insurance
is the inflation of prescription drug prices. For example,
amoxicillin is a prescription drug commonly used to
treat strep throat. One could expect to pay around $50
for the generic
drug. University health insurance policy holders
are charged a co-pay of $15 for the drug.
Even if one provider advertised significantly lower
rates than their competitors, would students be interested?
Students may not feel the same way about health care
as they do about a Wendy's dollar menu. Does a person
really want to get "the best deal" on heath insurance?
One may not feel boastful about the great bargain they
received on their health insurance.
Not every medical service on campus is costly though.
Students are entitled to a free examination from a licensed
doctor at the Wellness Center. If it's free who pays
for it? Well, it's not exactly free. Each semester
students pay a $30 fee incorporated
into tuition to cover these costs. An office visit
to the doctor typically costs
somewhere around $120-$170, so stopping by USU's Health
and Wellness Center may be a reasonable value.
Katherine Berg, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering
continually experienced a sore throat and decided she
ought to get checked out. She also noticed small white
bumps in the back of her throat so she visited the Health
and Wellness Center. There, she informed the doctor
at the facility about these symptoms. She was assured
that her condition was normal, that she was overreacting,
and just needed to get some sleep.
A few months later, because symptoms persisted, she
saw an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Under a health
care plan provided by her employer, Berg covered the
$20 co-pay fee for this visit. During the examination,
she was told that the small white bumps were known as
chronic debris, a symptom of tonsillitis, and that her
tonsils needed to come out immediately. She, of course,
agreed to the surgery rather than risk the chance of
liver failure, heart failure, or rheumatic fever.
"It wasn't very comforting to know that during those
months [my condition] could have developed into something
more serious," said Berg.
She has not yet received the bill for the procedure,
but can probably expect it to exceed $4,000. The plan
she currently is on will cover 80 percent of the cost.
The need for a tonsillectomy is just one of the many
possible procedures a student may need to go through
during their college experience. Let's say you have
a severe stomach ache for a few days, and after asking
a few friends you feel you should look into the possibility
that it may be caused by an infected appendix. To obtain
a diagnosis, you could set up an appointment with the
Wellness Center and probably be seen the same day. Suppose
the diagnosis is affirmative and you learn you must
receive an appendectomy. The typical bill for fees involving
this type of condition may total around $17,000. Most
Utah State students are not likely in possession of
such funds. If the student was insured under the school,
this cost after the 70 percent coverage and cost of
initial insurance would comparatively be about $7,200.
Another hypothetical situation might be if you were
out on Mt. Beaver snowboarding and had an accident in
which you hit your head on the ground. If you wanted
to make sure you were OK, a CAT scan could cost anywhere
from $300-$600. Keep in mind that is just for the scan,
and doesn't include staying in the hospital, pain medication,
etc. Under the university's health insurance plan you
would be charged $100 for a co-pay visit. On top of
that you would be charged 50 percent of the CAT scan
fee or 30 percent if you visit a preferred provider
under the plan.
If the above mentioned injury occurred while participating
in an interscholastic or intercollegiate event or competition,
it would fall under the exclusions and limitations section
of the policy. Therefore the injured party would assume
all costs. This is just one of the many exclusions of
Does the pollen in Cache Valley have you sneezing?
If your allergies are to the point where prescription
drugs or allergy testing is necessary for relief, count
on paying for all costs out of your own pocket. The
plan doesn't cover this ailment. Are you squinting to
see the PowerPoint presentation displayed on the screen
as you sit in class? Don't look to the university to
provide you with an eye exam, glasses, or contact lenses
because they aren't covered either.
"There are only about 200 students currently enrolled
in the plan available from the university," says Noell
Hansen, Student Health Insurance Specialist, "and many
of them are high-usage participants of the plan."
This number has decreased from 1,800 students a few
years ago. Knowing this it may be easier to understand
why many health care providers are reluctant to submit
their services to Utah State. Unless changes to the
health insurance policy of the university are made,
the downward spiral will continue. If the only students
purchasing the health insurance policy are those who
consistently take advantage of it, then insurance companies
will be driven away one by one.
Perhaps if the university required all students to
have health insurance, there may be more incentive for
health insurance providers to offer premiums at more
If every student at USU enrolled themselves in the
school's health care plan, the percentage of policy
holders that actually used their insurance would go
down. With the pool being larger, the cost of health
insurance per student would, in turn, decrease. Unless
students feel a push to make health care a priority,
reasonable coverage is likely to become further and
further out of reach.