When 20-year-old Shay Simpkins went into the Florida A&M University’s clinic earlier this semester for a simple physical, she left with more than she bargained for.
“I have anemia and this semester I went to the clinic for a physical and they told me that I have neutrophilia, (a type of white blood cell disorder, if left untreated can cause immune disorders, inflammatory infections and viral infections) and I would have to see a Hematologist,” Simpkins said.
According to FAMU’s clinic, close to 40 percent of incoming FAMU students do not have health insurance and for this reason, staff said they will do everything they can to treat their patients.
“We act like any other outpatient clinic,” said Tanya Tatum, M.H.A., director of student health services. “If students need additional care we make the referral for them.”
College students and young adults (ages 18-24) make up the largest group of Americans without healthcare coverage, according to aetna.com. This figure is equivalent to 1 in 3 uninsured Americans who are between the ages of 18 and 24.
Tatum said health insurance is necessary and allows people to receive proper treatment.
“Health insurance improves your ability to access physician and hospital care, medications, and specialty care,” said Tatum.
Students said having an insurance plan in their parents’ name is beneficial.
“I have health insurance through my mom, which is great because if I get sick or need medication it’s not some big deal and it won’t hurt my pockets,” said Samantha Lockley, a fifth year pharmacy student from Jacksonville.
While some students are registered as dependents on their parents plan until a certain age, students use a school-sponsored insurance plan. FAMU offers annual, fall, spring and summer premiums for students, varying from $168 to $595, depending on the plan.
Then there are those, like Simpkins, who never had any type of coverage. While the university’s insurance plan is not mandatory, if FAMU were to implement such a plan, Tatum said all students would have some amount of coverage.
“Under a mandatory plan all students would have some level of health insurance coverage,” Tatum said. “Compared to a voluntary policy, mandatory insurance would cover a larger number of persons that helps stabilize the risk pool and reduce adverse selection.”
Tatum also said there are several advantages
“[Mandatory health insurance] helps to manage costs and increase the potential for improved benefits,” Tatum said. “Mandatory health insurance may help students to stay in school.”
Issues like the large number of students without coverage and the number of universities with limited funds for affordable voluntary plans have been brought before the Florida Board of Governors.
However, it would take several meetings with various students, faculty, administrators and approval for the board of trustees, for any plans to be permanently put in place.
Until there is a mandatory coverage policy Tatum encourages students without health insurance to take full advantage of the insurance coverage offered at the university.
“University sponsored insurance is low cost, it doesn’t seem like it but it is,” Tatum said. “It is not full coverage but it covers accident and illness, impatient and outpatients visits.”
With all the help that the clinic provides, Tatum said services are still limited and more often than not, students do put off care to avoid unaffordable costs. She also said the dangers of putting off treatment may include infections and inflammation which may turn fatal.
Tatum said she believes the greatest danger is “thinking you can’t go in because you don’t have a way to pay for it.”
Tatum said there are plenty of other great resources for students to utilize to help with cost.
During her visit Simpkins said she was referred to an organization called We Care for assistance with healthcare coverage.
“I tried to go through an agency to get [health insurance] paid for, but they said my financial aid was too high and I lived above the poverty line,” Simpkins said.
Besides contacting private agencies and employer-sponsored health insurance plans, many colleges and universities are beginning to offer mandatory student insurance plans. According to the government accountability office statistics, by the 2007-2008 academic year 82 percent of four-year public institutions have already implemented this mandatory insurance plan.
As a nursing student, Simpkins believes that there should be federal and states assistance offered to everyone without limitations. As for now, Simpkins said she is not going to worry about it because there is not anything she feels she can do.
The student insurance plan is available to everyone and more information can be retrieved in the FAMU clinic.