Maximize your student health plan

A significant portion of the student matriculation fee paid at the beginning of the school year can be attributed to the Student Health Fee.

The Student Health Fee provides access to comprehensive medical and mental health, dental testing, and health promotion and education services at the Center for Student Health and Counseling. At $124 each term, students should take advantage of the services they are paying for.

It is recommended that students visit the SHAC office before seeking further assistance for any health concerns.

For the students’ benefit, SHAC office visits are free of charge; only secondary services and items are provided on a fee-for-service basis. These items include prescriptions, procedures, immunizations/injections, durable medical equipment, x-rays and diagnostic laboratory work. Services that are not covered by the fee include emergency treatment, specialty care (such as dermatology, orthopedics and physical therapy) maternity care and hospitalization.

All students at Portland State who are enrolled in five or more credits –one or more credit hours for international students– are required to be part of a recognized health insurance plan.

The school hopes to prevent students from ending up with cumbersome medical bills. The university health insurance policy is also an effort to maintain students’ ability to stay in school by keeping them healthy.

Coverage options for students

PSU provides its own insurance plan for students. One-third of eligible students at PSU are currently enrolled in the university health plan.

This year, PSU has partnered with a new health insurance carrier. PacificSource is an Oregon-based company with a wider local provider network than Aetna, the university’s previously contracted company. The basic services covered by the plan have not changed with the new contract.

One major advantage to enrolling in the PSU Student Health Insurance Plan is the cost; the PSU plan is more affordable than many available private plans. The PSU student plan costs $776 per term; spring term fees also qualify students for summer coverage, including those students who are graduating. The Student Health Insurance Plan has a $300 deductible (the amount that must be paid out of pocket before the insurance company contributes to a claim). Students will never pay more than $5,000 out of pocket for yearly health care costs because of annual in-network maximums.
(Ed note: students who seek services out-of-network may be held responsible for additional costs.)

Each academic year, students have the opportunity to waive the PSU plan if enrolled in a comparable health insurance plan. When approved, the waiver is valid for one full academic year and must be requested again the next academic year.

To supplant the PSU plan, students may also apply for a government-provided insurance plan—Medicaid, Oregon Health Plan etc.—or a third party private insurance plan. Students are welcome to re-enroll in the Student Health Insurance Plan if circumstances require such a change (for example, turning 27 years of age or losing a job).

In an effort to improve health outreach to students, SHAC has expanded its dental care services, which are paid for on a fee-for-service basis. “Often, students can’t afford to go to the dentist and our rates are significantly reduced from the standard community rates,” said Dr. Dana Tasson, SHAC executive director. “We also work with the students to develop an affordable treatment plan.”

Now, students taking one or more credit hours can access dental care services, not just those taking five or more credit hours. However, those taking between one and four credit hours will pay at a higher rate than the latter. The Student Health Fee subsidizes the cost of SHAC services. Most services are billed to the student account; once put on the student account, students have one term to pay for the service fees.

International accessibility

Health care is not limited to just local students; international students are also welcome to access SHAC services.

“International students are often confused by the American health care system and often unnecessarily go to the Emergency Department which is very costly, when it may not be needed,” said Jessica Cole, the SHAC associate director.

“I’m not sure where I can get help when I am sick,” said Rukaya Alkhamis, an Intensive English Language Program student.

“It will be helpful for the school to help us with orientation in the beginning of school year,” said Lania Alshahrani, also an IELP student.

SHAC staff members can help international students navigate the confusing American health care system by providing medical triage and advice to those with questions and concerns. SHAC educates their staff about cultural sensitivity and offers interpreter services for students who may be concerned about communicating in English. International students may also look into healthcare-related presentations around campus given in their native languages.

Additional support services

PSU makes an effort to reach out to the students on campus and provide effective student-based aid. The PSU Healthy Campus Initiative aims to create a safe campus, promote healthy eating and help students manage stress more effectively.

The Department of Health Promotions runs the Wellness and Health Action Team; through this program, students have the opportunity to be helped by peer educators who are also students.

SHAC also has a counseling service for students, groups, faculty and staff. Their ‘Let’s Talk’ program provides a stigma-free environment in which students can see a therapist for counseling. Additionally, PSU offers healthcare related to transgender and sexual health. In fact, PSU was the first university to cover this need. The center also offers mind spas, acupuncture services and testing centers for students.

“We know that good health is an important factor to academic success,” Dr. Tasson said. “Our goal is to help create a campus environment in which faculty and students can obtain optimal health.”

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