Nov. 28, 2006
By CHRISTINE TAMER and GREER KINSEY
Staff writer and reporter for Baylor University
A spoon full of sugar may make the medicine go down, but it does little for the long amounts of time students spend waiting at Baylor’s Health Center.
Freshman class officers met Nov. 14 with the university’s health center officials to address issues brought to them by students, including longer waiting times and new fees.
“Students have approached us directly or wrote in forums complaining about their experiences,” said League City freshman class vice president Yong-Yong Huang. “It was an issue that had to be addressed.”
The health center attributed long waiting times to the new electronic medical records (EMR).
“The initial problem through the EMR is that it requires them (health center) to use a tablet PC and go through approximately 15 pages of data prior to doing anything with a patient at the clinic,” said Lindale freshman class president Noah Hutchinson.
“Therefore, instead of just writing a few things on a piece of paper, it provides a better medical record in the end. But it obviously prolongs the process and diminishes the ability for students to be seen more quickly,” he said.
Rosemary Townsend, director of the health center’s business affairs and administration, said lines haven’t been as long as they were at the beginning of the semester.
The long lines were originally caused by the new insurance plan and the fact that this is the first year that insurance claims have been filed electronically through the health center.
With the new system, all students’ insurance information had to be updated, Townsend said.
“It’s rather complicated to get something like this up and running,” Townsend said.
Lines have slowed down, Townsend said, but adjusting to the new insurance plan and EMR systems are only a small part of the problem.
Townsend said students don’t always clarify their reason for coming to the health center.
She said many students are vague about their condition, but when they actually come into the office, their condition requires more attention than expected.
Townsend said students should make a clear explanation of their medical condition when making their appointment at the health center.
“This slows the whole clinic down, so lines are always longer at the end of the day,” Townsend said.
The health center officials told the freshman class officers they are looking into increasing hours or hiring additional staff members, Cleburne freshman secretary Holly Maddox said.
“We found out the answers of the slowness, and the changes made by health services,” Maddox said. “We are continuing to research that. I don’t think we necessarily have a solution, but we have an answer for students.”
The freshman class officers presented the idea of registering for health service appointments online, but the current technology cannot accommodate the idea at the time, Huang said.
“Students need to be aware of the problems that exist and stick with the system as it continues to change,” Hutchinson said.
“In my perspective, knowing what goes on behind closed doors makes it easier for me to wait a few more minutes.”
As far as money goes, Huang also said students came to the freshman class officers confused as to why a part of their tuition goes directly toward health services, but they no longer receive free consultations.
Townsend said the health center no longer receives any percentage of the student fee and has not received a part of the fee since the 2004 fiscal year.
“We did change the fee structure,” Townsend said. “It was changed so that now we instituted an office visit charge. It had nothing to do with insurance per se. It helps cover the costs and expenses that was directly affected because we didn’t get that general student fee fund anymore.”
The newly implemented Baylor health insurance policy states that if a student is covered by a plan other than the university sponsored plan, the Baylor Health Center will now bill that person’s health insurance company for services received.
The insurance claim will automatically go from the health center to the student’s insurance company, Townsend said.
“If you are a student with insurance, you are charged only in terms with your insurance card,” Townsend said. “It is whatever your policy charges. There is no double charge.”
Most insurance companies are now in network with Baylor, which means the insurance company will pay more on a claim, which benefits the student more than if it is out of network.
If a student’s insurance company is not in-network, his or her insurance company bases prices on an “allowable range,” which is a standard price for all insurance companies.
Townsend said Baylor health care officials base prices off each specific student’s insurance policy, so it’s important for students to have health insurance.
“You need to, as a student, understand the policies and regulations of your insurance program,” she said.
Townsend said not everyone clearly reads everything they’re sent from Baylor, including the information about the new insurance policy. She said this can lead to confusion about the insurance policy.
Hutchinson said that it is possible that the freshman class officers will not be able to directly change the way the health center makes decisions.
In this case, she said they aspire to promote understanding among students when visiting the health center.