THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA: Plan would make universities accept private insurance from students

Mar 25, 2009


THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, March 25, 2009 — Two Florida lawmakers promoted a program Wednesday that would require universities to bill students’ private health insurance companies rather than charging them separate fees each time they want to see a doctor.

Currently, nine of the state’s 11 public universities offer health services on their campuses. But when students go to the health clinic, they pay a fee for care, procedures or medicine. That fee could be more or less than what their co-pay would be if the student went to the emergency room or a regular doctor’s office.

Some universities also charge a health fee as part of a student’s tuition and fees. According to analysis by the Florida Legislature, the average health fee throughout the state university system is $7.13 per credit hour.

But under the proposal, starting July 1, 2010, university health centers would have to bill students’ insurance companies for medical services, prescriptions or other items provided. If a student’s family does not pay for his or her insurance, the student could still pay a fee to the university health clinic or pay for the university’s student health insurance plan.

“If a student has insurance, go ahead and bill the insurance company. If a student does not have an insurance, nothing changes for them,” said state Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami.

Students would still have to pay a fee to the health center if a university charges a flat fee in it’s tuition and fees.

Flores and Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, are sponsoring the legislation, billing it as a cost-saving measure for families who don’t want to pay for university health services plus private insurance. SB 225 passed the Senate Higher Education committee Wednesday morning, followed by HB 885’s passage in the House State Universities and Private Colleges Policy Committee that afternoon.

The legislation would require that the universities become in-network providers for at least five of the 10 largest health insurance companies or managed-care plans in the state. It would also make the universities do competitive bidding for its student health insurance plans.

House analysis estimates it may cost $600,000 for the state university system to implement the new billing procedures and to train staff.

But the new program could be a potential boon to the universities. Health centers previously spurned by college students, who didn’t want to pay extra fees, now may get new patients, meaning extra dough for the university, backers said.