After-hours care costly

When Boynton is closed, students often turn to emergency rooms for care.

by Emily Kaiser

Last month, Stephanie Schwecke, a health advocate in Centennial Hall, took a sick student to the emergency room because of a common cold.

The student missed the Boynton Health Service regular hours by one hour, but a nurse advised her to go to the University Medical Center, Fairview, emergency room because she had a fever.

“It sucks because it wasn’t Boynton, so Student Services Fees didn’t cover it,” Schwecke said.

Despite the bother some students face when sick at night or on weekends, Boynton does not offer an after-hours clinic, and officials said students aren’t interested in paying for the service.

Students who use Boynton during the day need to know their options when Boynton isn’t open, said Boynton’s Public Health and Marketing Director Dave Golden.

“Every insurance plan varies, so it’s important to call and check,” he said.

University-insured students can see any Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association doctor at an urgent care or emergency room and pay 20 percent of the cost, he said.

Golden said Boynton offered extended weekday and Saturday hours in past years, but there was no demand.

“The general awareness of the after-hours was high, but we haven’t had the bodies to make it go,” he said.

For Boynton to have extended hours, Golden said, Student Services Fees most likely would increase.

First-year sociology student Liz Tracy said she would like to see more hours at Boynton, but wouldn’t want to require all students to pay the extra fees.

First-year clothing design student Elyse Olson said the last time she went to Boynton, she had to squeeze her appointment between classes.

“When I went between classes, it was really stressful,” she said. “It would be nice to have after-hours because I have class during the day.”

Boynton offers other options for students after business hours, Boynton Director Ed Ehlinger said, including a 24-hour nurse line and a number students can call to receive emergency contraceptives.

Golden said residence halls and greek houses have the benefit of access to health advocates during nights and weekends.

He said the program began in 1989 because of an increase in colds treated at the emergency room.

Student options

At the University, all students are required to have insurance in order to enroll in classes, said Sue Jackson, director of student health benefits.

Students who don’t have insurance through another provider must enroll in the student benefits plan, she said.

Jackson said people between the ages of 19 and 29 are most likely to be uninsured, partly because they expect to never be sick.

“They are putting themselves at risk,” she said. “Our belief is that we can make sure students have a better chance of academic success with insurance.”

Jackson said the plan is “the most comprehensive in the country.”

This year, students on the Duluth and Crookston campuses can also enroll in the insurance program if they don’t have another provider, Jackson said.

The University offers separate plans for undergraduates, graduates and Academic Health Center students, Jackson said.

Approximately 12,000 students, along with more than 600 dependants, are enrolled in one of the three insurance options, she said.

Because of the increase in Academic Health Center benefits and the addition of the two campuses to the plan, an additional 1,000 students enrolled this year, Jackson said.

The more students enrolled in the insurance plan, the better the services provided, Ehlinger said.

Golden said the student plan has a maximum out-of-pocket cost of $2,000.

“The low out-of-pocket cost minimizes financial risk for students,” he said.

Many universities and colleges do not require students to have insurance, but Jackson said those schools are struggling.

“The schools that do not require it in these days of rising costs are having problems financially,” she said.

A majority of the Big Ten schools require insurance, Jackson said, and requiring insurance lowers the costs for students.

“If you have insurance as an option and you try to provide insurance, only students with health issues will enroll,” she said. “When you make it mandatory, the cost is spread among all students.”