Beginning Fall Quarter 2001, students in the University of California, as a condition of their enrollment, will be required to have health insurance.
Many students will get some or all of their medical treatment at on-campus facilities, such as UCSB’s Student Health Service (SHS). The center, open only during business hours on weekdays, does not offer surgical or emergency medical care. It instead offers preventative care or treatment, providing immunizations, a pharmacy, medical and X-ray laboratories, a dental and eye clinic, as well as physical therapy and gynecology.
“The student health center is basically a full-service provider, offering general primary care to students,” SHS Director Cynthia Bowers said.
Students are charged $22 for primary care and $27 for special visits. Fees are automatically billed to a patient’s BARC account and are not covered by insurance. If students ask, SHS will provide a bill statement that offers all the codes and numbers needed for an insurance company to help pay the fees.
SHS also offers its own form of limited health insurance, called Prepaid Access to Healthcare (PATH). This fee of $70 per quarter, or $180 for a full year, covers all visits, lab tests and X-rays.
Mary Spletter, a UC public information representative, estimated that 40 percent of UC undergraduate students are uninsured and that 25 percent of students who withdraw from the UC do so for health reasons. Under a plan passed Sept. 14 at the UC Regents meeting, all undergraduates will be required to either purchase insurance at their campus or provide proof of comparable coverage.
Currently, all UC campuses offer health insurance through SHS, and at Santa Cruz and Berkeley, insurance is already mandatory. The cost of SHS plans UC-wide range from $522 to $864, with an average cost of $714. The cost will vary for each campus, depending on the location of the campus, local healthcare costs and services available at each campus.
Students receiving Financial Aid already are allotted $407 for healthcare.
“Financial Aid will be included as part of the basic package for students who receive aid in the form of grants, loans and/or work study,” Spletter said. “Students who already have their own insurance can waive the requirement.”
Students not eligible for Financial Aid still will not be eligible for covered insurance, despite the increased fees. Students not already receiving aid will be required to pay for their plan or seek coverage under their parents’ plans.
In September, the UC Student Association (UCSA) supported mandatory UC health insurance. However, UCSA Chair Debbie Davis said the group is worried about students who are not on Financial Aid but still must take out loans to pay for school.
“We are concerned that the loan debt burden will be increasing for some students,” she said.
Spletter said mandatory student health insurance would help more students than it would hurt.
Janet O’Neil, the director of public affairs for Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, said campus healthcare is usually the best option for students without brand-name insurance and who are not grievously ill.
“[O]ur services are an expensive way to go – with physician fees and hospital fees,” O’Neil said. “You’re better off to go to UCSB student health center for regular checkups and minor health issues.”
Junior music major Lauren Osuch praised the care she received at the Student Health Service.
“It is convenient, and I can charge it to my BARC account,” she said. “It’s definitely affordable.”
Eric Frederick, a junior economics/math major, agreed. “It’s close and convenient and pretty reasonable,” he said. “I would like to see other payment options than just BARC, but availability is good and they seem concerned.”