Health center pushes for Health fee to help with funding

By Albert Shelby

February 19, 2013

Students at Missouri Western may be facing another proposed fee this spring.

Esry Health Center officials are suggesting that implementing a health fee similar to the Student Success Act, which was enacted a year ago, would guarantee good treatment and services for all students. According to Esry Health Center Administrative Assistant Angie Beck, the health center totaled 1,874 visits. Beck feels that the fee is necessary because of increased expenses at the Health Center.

“Cost is going up and we are seeing more students,” Beck said. “To keep going we need the extra money. I also think a healthy student helps the retention rate here because if you’re not feeling right and not making it to class, you’re not graduating.”

The 2012-2013 operating budgets contain $93,222 for Health Services compared to last year’s $91,485, a $1,737 increase. Currently, students who visit the health center for services are charged $15-$35, depending on the treatment.

“Our charges are low to accommodate students,” Beck said. “We have a base professional fee from the budget, but our operating budget to purchase tests, equipment and supplies comes from our charges.”

Registered Nurse Marti Burri stated that when some students without health insurance discover the cost for the visit, they immediately leave without treatment.

“The student health center does not file insurance,” Burri said. “So a lot of times students will come in, and when they find out they can not pay for it, they leave. If there was more funding, we would be able to expand the hours for the students instead of only being open Monday through Thursday.”

Burri said that she knows of students that have illnesses or pains that are sometimes just in need of minor treatment, and students tend to go to the hospital instead because they felt the health center did not have the supplies to treat them.

“A lot of times, students may go to the emergency room for something that may be minor,” Burri said. “Like strep throat, where it could be treated here. But since they don’t have the money at the time, they will just go tie up an emergency room for a couple of hours.”

Beck said the fee has been discussed in the past by Western Administration and the Student Government Association but has never been proposed to the student body. In February of 2011, former SGA President Dillon Harp said that they needed more information before bringing the fee to a student vote.

“It’s been brought up several times, but at the current time, it has not been proposed,” Beck said. “I think they are waiting for the VP of Student Affairs to be introduced and hopefully then we can get the ball moving.”

Senator Travis Hart said that student health is a major priority for him, but he does not see the health fee as a priority for students. Hart said that he feels that Western is a school that focuses on education and the health center and its services should not need any changes at this time.

“I think the health center does a good job now with the limited use that it has,” Hart said. “Missouri Western really has no need for a fully functioned health center that is free, when we have various health clinics around St. Joe such as Heartland Hospital.”

Hart said that this issue has not been discussed by Senate.

“Students should not have to pay more fees,” Hart said. “As far as student government goes, I am the chair of the Governmental Relations Committee, and I have not heard any senator wanting to propose the student health fee bill. And as far as student government goes, I don’t see that bill going through right now.”

SGA President Jacob Scott understands the importance of the health center, as well as student health. Scott noted that there had been previous discussions about the fee, but nothing has ever been formally proposed.

“I think that a key component of student life is health and wellness,” Scott said. “I think that the health center and its current facet could be improved. I have not seen any proposal or anything like that. There has not been opposition to the idea, but there just has not been a formal proposal made for it.”

Advanced Practice Nurse Elizabeth Roderick feels that the fee gives more access to the students. She felt the fee would help students feel more comfortable with coming to the health center.

“It helps with the accessibility to students,” Roderick said. “We could do more educating by having more programs that could help prevent some of these illnesses.”

Roderick noted that health fees are common at different universities and fees usually lead to endless benefits.

“Most universities in the United States have health fees,” Roderick said. “especially in our area, with the campus going smoke free, which is definitely a good thing. I don’t know why they wouldn’t want to promote other things as far as health goes. The possibilities are huge but we are limited.”