Free trips to the Student Health Center could become a thing of the past.
Texas Rep. Fred Brown (R-14) wants to replace the college health-care system with a private insurance model.
“College health centers represent one of the last remaining medical institutions that won’t accept private health insurance for medical treatment,” Brown said. “Millions of dollars in state funding could be saved each year by having these centers file private insurance claims.”
If passed, House Bill 103 will take effect Sept. 1.
“This bill represents a simple way to save the state money without reducing services or increasing student fees,” Brown said. “By providing an additional revenue stream to fund these student health centers, HB 103 will benefit not only college students and their parents, but the state as a whole.”
Emilio Carranco, director of the Student Health Center, said in an e-mail there are notable differences between the current college health model and the proposed private insurance model.
He said HB 103 has advantages and disadvantages.
Carranco said if the bill passes, visits to the Student Health Center will no longer be free. Students pay for the health center through a $53 per semester fee, regardless of whether they use the service. He said approximately 25 percent of Texas State students are without insurance, and higher costs associated with the bill’s passage may result in the delay of healthcare.
“In order to accept and bill private insurance as proposed in HB 103, the Student Health Center would have to hire additional staff and remodel spaces in the health center,” Carranco said. “These additional administrative costs would have to be recovered through revenues generated by billing private insurance. While we anticipate that we will be able to cover the costs of additional staff and remodeling with revenues generated by billing private insurance, students will have to pay higher costs for most of our services in order for us to generate the necessary revenues.”
Approximately 50 percent of Texas State students use the Student Health Center annually, according to their practice management system report from January 2008 to November 2008. Sixty percent of those paid nothing for their visit. Nineteen percent paid $20 or less. Two percent paid more than $100 for their visit.
If HB 103 is passed, students will have longer waiting times at the center, Caranco said.
“We currently have a very efficient check-in and check-out system because we do not have to deal with insurance,” Caranco said. “On patient satisfaction surveys patients have indicated that 85 to 90 percent of the time they are seen within 15 minutes of their appointed time.”
He said accepting private insurance would require the center to collect health insurance information and enter it into the computer system.
“Calls would have to be made to insurance companies to verify that the student is still covered by the insurance plan,” Carranco said. “Deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance amounts would have to be verified in order to make sure that we collect the appropriate payment for each patient. All of this takes time and has to be done while the patient is in the clinic. Whether we choose to collect and verify the information at check-in or check-out, the outcome will be longer waits for all patients.”
Mandy Domaschk, member of the student health advisory committee, said she is against the bill.
“I don’t think it benefits the students,” she said. “It would actually make it harder for students to get services at the student health center.”
Domaschk said insurance companies will benefit the most from HB 103 and students, parents and the health center would be adversely affected.
“I think it costs students more to privatize it in a way like HB 103 would have it privatized,” Domaschk said. “To have it the way that it is, is the most cost effective. Our Student Health Center runs well now — we’re highly accredited.”
Carranco said under Brown’s bill, the Student Health Center pharmacy would accept and charge private insurance, and because of poor reimbursement amounts, the on-campus pharmacy could fail.
“We project that the pharmacy will go from making money to losing money,” Carranco said. “Depending on the magnitude of the losses, it is conceivable that the pharmacy would have to be closed. Large pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS can survive the low reimbursements because they have such large volumes of business and have other products they sell in their stores.”