An online petition asking the University of Michigan to bring back coverage of sexually transmitted infection testing at University Health Service began circulating online Wednesday.
At the time of publication of this article, the petition had over 1,400 signatures.
UHS and Michigan Medicine quietly introduced a new policy in July to bill a student’s insurance plan for laboratory testing, radiology x-rays and ultrasounds and allergy injections. Previously, a mandatory $199 Health Service Fee paid by students through tuition covered these examinations. UHS said they implemented these changes “to keep the health service fee unchanged this year, despite significant increases in expenses, including providing greater financial support to other student life units.”
Many students have insurance coverage through their parents, and when plans are billed, an Explanation of Benefits is often sent to the insurance policy holder to detail the services provided at UHS. If students want to avoid this, they have the option to pay for STI testing out-of-pocket. The fee is $90.
In the comments of the petition and on social media, students wrote about the importance of accessibility of STI testing, especially for those in vulnerable medical situations and in the context of the University’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion goals.
Engineering sophomore Kaleb Clover signed the petition. Clover said he recently came out as gay, and explained to The Daily if these changes had been made before he had came out, he would not have gotten tested for STIs. He would have feared his family would know he was gay and sexually active before he felt comfortable telling them.
“I wasn’t going to have them (my parents) know before I wanted them to know,” Clover said.
Information junior Harrison McCabe also signed the petition and noted his disappointment with UHS Executive Director Dr. Robert Ernst. Ernst told The Daily last week students should consider obtaining their “own personal health insurance plan” if they’re uncomfortable with their parents finding out about STI testing from an insurance statement. McCabe felt Ernst didn’t take insurance accessibility into account when making those recommendations.
“I thought that comment about how students should get their own insurance was very insulting and condescending because it’s not that easy to find insurance,” McCabe said. “Looking at me, I’ve had a lot of chronic health issues and I’ve gone through a lot of insurances and it’s been very difficult for me.”
The University does offer a health insurance plan through the Blue Care Network of Michigan. The cost for a full-year plan for domestic students is $1,709 annually with a $100 deductible.
McCabe also said he wonders why the services were being cut in light of increasing tuition rates.
“My tuition has gone up every year since I’ve gone here,” McCabe said. “Why are you cutting the cost when we’re paying more? We’re paying more for less.”
In an earlier interview with The Daily, Ernst said billing changes were a result of creating new revenue streams for UHS.
“In the context of being asked to stay creative, stay innovative, and hold increases in the health service fees to a minimum, the easiest first step is to let the hospital bill what they’re doing, instead of us just paying for them,” Ernst said.
University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald told The Daily the University was aware of the petition but had no new information to add at this time.