Flu Season Prompts Look into Student Healthcare

Caroline Roy ‘20

Et Cetera Editor

Under current policy, Davidson requires all students to have health insurance, either through the school’s Student Blue plan or from an external provider. This policy isn’t new or unique to Davidson, but it means that students with varying degrees of financial need navigate Davidson’s healthcare system differently depending on whether or not their insurance comes from the school. 

Associate Director for Student Health Services Kathy Carstens said that Davidson requires insurance in order to ensure student safety and give students an affordable healthcare option. 

“While most students come to school with medical insurance, for those who do not, they can incur high medical bills if they become sick or injured,” Carstens said. “This can negatively impact a student’s ability to succeed and sometimes even remain in school.”

According to Carstens, Davidson’s model of student insurance resembles that of many other institutions across the country who require students to provide proof of insurance. The American College Health Association published a guideline in 2017 that aimed to help institutions build a credible and appropriate insurance model for students. 

These guidelines specify that students must have insurance to be enrolled, insurance must be available to all students, and the student health program must undergo a yearly reevaluation. 

Carstens said that Davidson’s insurance policy looks much different than it did fifteen years ago, as the student health program has adjusted to make things more accessible. 

“The school works closely each spring to insure Davidson students are being offered the most comprehensive and affordable plan available,” she said. 

However, some students feel that the school’s policy of automatically making students pay for Davidson insurance unless they manually opt-out is inconvenient and harmful. Isabel Padalecki ‘22 noted that while Davidson advertises their insurance policy as being financially convenient for students, it doesn’t work for everyone. 

“You have to go out of your way to file a claim to get out of paying for the school’s health insurance,” Padalecki said. If students don’t file a claim, Padalecki claimed they are “forced to consume whatever [Davidson] decides is an acceptable healthcare plan.” 

She points out that having private insurance is a matter of privilege, since most students’ ability to get insurance depends on their parents’ employment status; students who are financially independent face a disadvantage.

“Insurance is hinged on employment, and that’s being imported into the school’s healthcare system. We need to remember that schools want to make money,” Padalecki said. 

Luis Toledo ‘20, who is covered under the school’s insurance, said that while he has had a positive experience with Student Blue, he’s had to navigate its impact on his financial aid. 

“I have been lucky enough to work with Business Services to make sure my expected family contribution isn’t affected by having [Student Blue] insurance,” he said. 

Both Toledo and Padalecki pointed out that while Davidson’s student health center provides many basic services, they can’t meet the medical needs of every student. 

Carstens said, “We are able to offer a comprehensive college health program, but due to our size, we are not a comprehensive college health service. We cannot perform certain services such as x-rays or EKGs.”

According to Carstens, preventative healthcare (check-ups, vaccines, physicals, etc.) is 100% covered by Student Blue, and as long as each student meets their deductible, the plan covers 80% of other external service costs. 

Padalecki pointed out that most students require external medical resources during their time at Davidson. 

 “The health center isn’t enough for a lot of students to navigate their mental health issues and health issues. A lot of people need to see specialists,” she said. 

She also noted that students with their own insurance must take on the additional burden of filing their own insurance claims, opting out of Student Blue, and facilitating communication between Davidson and external insurance providers. 

This fall, for example, the health center offered flu shots in the student union that were covered under Student Blue, but required an extra step in order to be covered by other insurance. 

“I ended up having to pay for my own vaccines because I was having trouble navigating communication between my insurer and Davidson,” Padalecki said. 

Carstens acknowledged that “while we do our very best at providing a top notch service at the lowest possible price, it still can be a financial burden for some students.”

While paying for Student Blue can put financial pressure on some students, it is designed to be the more convenient option for students during their years at Davidson. 

“Student insurance plans are written specifically for students. They balance the cost of purchase with the cost of use and follow the student while either on campus, at home or studying abroad. They also offer confidentiality that being on a parent’s insurance plan may not afford,” Carstens said. “Student insurance plans are tasked with coming up with innovative strategies to meet students where they are.”

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