Health care fee rises 10.5 percent

    The student health care fee has risen at twice the rate this year that it has in the past four years.

    The fee, mandatory for full-time students, is $135 this year, a 10.5 percent increase from last year. The fee went up about 5 percent in each of the four previous years.

    ”The main thing has been the increase in insurance rates and the well deserved raises that the unions have bargained for, as well as the 2 percent jump in indirect costs that all auxiliary departments must pay,” said Mary Beth Collins, the Interim Director of Student Health and Counseling (SHAC).

    Students, not the health center, have had to pay for the rate increases, Collins said. “We haven’t had to cut back on services because the students are paying these fees, frankly.”

    Last year, the Oregon University System mandated a 2 percent jump in the costs the university charges non-student departments for basic services like billing and human resources, calling them “indirect costs.”

    The Health Center, as one of these groups, had been paying a 10 percent cut of its overhead to the general budget to the university for years. Because of the increase from 10 to 12 percent, the cost to run the health center increased by about $160,000, Collins said, and an increase in student fees paid for the extra costs.

    ”Students are already paying a lot of fees, and I really want the process of allocating these direct costs to be fair,” Collins said.

    Nurses and social workers got their first raise in three years, and a part-time dietician was added this year as additional increases to the health center budget.

    Out of the current $135 fee per term, $37 goes toward insurance, which is a 224 percent increase from the 2002-03 school year.

    This calendar year, all categories of health care costs across the nation are expected to rise at twice the rate of inflation, currently at 2.06 percent. The figures, released in the Segal Study last month, examined information from insurance carriers, managed care groups and third-party administrators. Segal is a worldwide, independent benefits and human resources company covering more than 8 million employees and their dependents.

    Student groups have managed to avoid paying these indirect costs in past years, but may have to begin paying the same 12 percent of their overhead to the school’s general fund as well.

    Student leaders like student body President Courtney Morse are fighting to let student groups keep all of the funds allocated to them by the Student Fee Committee, which controls $9 million in student fees annually.

    Morse is not optimistic that the health center might benefit from her efforts. “I doubt if I won that fight that SHAC would end up paying less,” Morse said.

    Not all students utilize the health center and some do not know it exists.

    ”Spending $135 a term is completely ridiculous,” said Ashley, a senior studying to be a nurse. “It is great if you’re going to use it, but if not, it is a waste. It seems like one more way for the school to suck money out of us.”

    Students do have a $10,000 benefit if they get sick and in-patient treatment is needed, said Christi Ziegler, account manager for Acordia Somerton Student Insurance.

    ”We can definitely see that students are using these plans and that they are not going to waste,” Ziegler said.

    Students pay $405 for a three-term school year for basic health coverage and access to SHAC.