Students used to free checkups at GW now pay $12 for visits to Student Health. The program started the fee this fall to cover the cost of supplies, additional services and extended hours, said Student Health Medical Director Isabel Goldenberg.
Service has expanded in recent years to include a Mount Vernon facility, extended weekday hours and add Saturday hours. Student Health Services, which began the fee Aug. 23, offers a variety of services from checkups and x-rays to psychiatric evaluating. Goldenberg said SHS needed to develop a co-payment to enable the service to continue its high quality service.
“We started the co-pay this year in order to continue to provide the expensive services that are helpful to the students,” Goldenberg said. “The money is needed because of the high cost of supplies and extended hours.”
Goldenberg said she does not think the fee is extraordinary or unreasonable.
“In general, any user of the health system is used to being charged,” Goldenberg said. “Most other health services have fees and co-payments. If anything, we are still less expensive than other services and schools.”
Students are able to pay the new fee with GW Debit Dollars, Goldenberg said.
Other universities struggle with the problem of covering costs of student health. American University includes an undisclosed fee in its charge for student housing and charges students $45 dollars for their first visit. Georgetown University student health services used to be free but now charge per-visit depending on services, due to the “steep rise in health care costs,” according to the university’s Web site.
Insurance can be used to cover the cost, but the co-payment of most students’ insurance plans would be about the same if not more. Goldenberg said HMOs probably do not cover the fee.
SHS created a form to itemize the Student Health costs to make reimbursements easier for students.
“Students and insurance companies were requesting itemized receipts,” Administrative Manager Pablo Corica said. “The form is very universal and accepted by most insurance companies.”.
Students who are members of the University-endorsed insurance plan, the Chickering Student Health Insurance Plan, do not have to pay the $12 each visit.
Goldenberg said some students were upset when they came to get prescriptions and were charged the $12. She said everyone who completes a visit to SHS must be charged.
“We are not a pharmacy,” Goldenberg said. “In order to be prescribed medication, they must meet with us. This is still a visit, so we need to charge them.”
Goldenberg said there are other places to get health service if the new payment bothers students, but she does not think any of them will be as convenient and cheap as SHS.
“Students can always look for other health services they think will be more economical, but I doubt it will be nearly as convenient,” Goldenberg said. “Our students need rapid access to health care, and that is exactly what we offer.”
SHS hours are now Monday-Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Some students said they are upset about another fee.
“I think the University should be able to cover the $12. It is not like they don’t charge us enough already,” freshman Christina Koury said.
But others said they are not upset about the change.
“I never really use this service,” said junior Cathy Jones, while in the waiting room. “This is my first time (at SHS), and it doesn’t bother me.”
Goldenberg said students are not usually surprised when they are asked to pay for health services.
“For most students the charge is not a big shock,” she said. “Students were surprised before when they didn’t have to pay.”