Health services considers user fee

Story by Lindsey Coleman, Staff writer

At the Board of Regents meeting Feb. 24, Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs, and Jackie Dudley, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services, presented several options for a Health Services expansion, which included potentially implementing a Health Services fee or moving the facility to the residential side of campus.

“You’re not going to do well academically if you’re not feeling well, so we want to make sure what we’re providing is best meeting the needs of students,” Robertson said.

Robertson said during Fall 2016, a steering committee including Kim Paschall, Health Services director, and several other staff and student representatives were assembled to wade through proposals and feedback from Hodgkins Beckley Consulting.

The consulting firm provides project management consultations for student health operations. After their studies at Murray State, Robertson said the firm concluded there is an unusually high amount of satisfaction with Health Services when compared with other universities. They also found the level of faculty and staff who utilize Health Services is higher than most universities.

Health Services currently requires approximately $530,000 per year to operate. To fund the potential new initiatives, Robertson said a health fee, which would tentatively be $149 for students and faculty on the Murray campus, a per-visit fee or billing insurance companies for visits could be in the works.

Student Government Association President Clint Combs said SGA informally polled the student senate about options for health services at the Feb. 22 meeting.

“What we found is what I think the board came to the conclusion of,” Combs said. “We need some concrete ideas of what some be some options for Health Services.”

Combs said of the approximately 20 people in attendance, half were in favor of Health Services yearly fees, half were in favor of billing insurance and all representatives were adamant that insurance should not be a requirement for service. Students expressed if a fee is charged, more services would be expected, he said.

Health Services, currently located in Wells Hall, could be moving to the residential side of campus, which Robertson said would make sense in some regards.

“I think it’s important the university does want to keep Health Services on campus,” Paschall said. “They don’t want students to have to go off campus.”

The consultants thought the hours of operation were short, and Robertson said they would recommend hours of operation to expand to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Consultants looked at the scope of operation, and Robertson said they recommended a greater focus on women’s health, psychiatric health and immunizations. To achieve those goals, the firm presented six models, which he said included everything from maintaining the existing model and adding a few services, to completely outsourcing the operation to a combination of the two.

Thus far in the process, Robertson said they’re not leaning towards any specific model, but they hope to be financially efficient no matter what option they choose. The next step will be to send out a request for information to see what operations other health providers could service on campus.

Robertson said Health Services is affected by the university budget. Because of budget cuts last year, the consulting physician and in-house lab were lost at the center. Now, CLIA-waived rapid testing is performed at the center, and a nurse practitioner sees patients.

Robertson said the request for information will be sent out, input will be evaluated, a request for proposals may be sent out and a decision will be made for or against outsourcing in the next year.

“I think if we are able to enhance our operations, then we can do more, serve a larger number of students,” Paschall said. “We typically see 65 students a day, and during flu season it can get up to 100.” She said sometimes the office reaches full capacity and only some students can be seen, so increasing services and the hours of operation would be beneficial.

At the board meeting, President Bob Davies said as a community and a small city, offering Health Services on campus is vital.

“Health Services is a necessary and important component of our university, the question becomes how do we appropriately offer the services, if necessary, how do we expand the services in the most fiscally-approved manner,” Davies said.