Health care a challenge for students in search of affordable health insurance

By JOEL GANTT

 

Many young Americans face the dilemma of acquiring health insurance. With so many Internet ads and different healthcare providers, it is hard to choose the best option.

At Pima Community College, many younger students are covered by their parents’ healthcare.

“I am on my dad’s health insurance,” 20-year-old student Dulce Torres said. “I haven’t thought about what I will do when that runs out.”

What does happen when your parents can’t keep you on their insurance any longer? Can college students even afford their own health care?

I didn’t have insurance, but an injury forced me to purchase a health plan that would allow me to see a doctor.

The injury occurred while I was playing softball at a local park. As I slid into second base, I felt a sharp pain shoot through my foot.

To save myself embarrassment, I jumped up and continued as if nothing had happened. After the game, however, I experienced extreme soreness and discoloration around my heel.

I limped around for a few days in hopes the pain would subside and eventually go away. I didn’t think my foot was broken, but when the pain still lingered a week later I decided to see a doctor.

Currently, I live alone and work as a bartender while attending PCC. The last time I had health coverage was in high school under my mother’s health plan.

As a student working at a job that doesn’t offer healthcare benefits, what were my options?

When I searched “healthcare” on the computer, I found endless websites that urged me to register for an insurance provider.

After viewing several sites that seemed to be selling rather than providing, I finally discovered a site that seemed trustworthy.

The azblue.com website is a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona provider that displays a list of different health care packages and options. The selling point was month-to-month plans that could be cancelled at anytime.

The most affordable plan costs $30 a month. The office visit co-pay is $30 for a basic doctor and $50 for a specialist. Generic prescriptions are $15 and name-brand prescriptions cost $125.

I filled out an application that asked for personal information and medical history. After paying a one-time $20 application fee and the first month of coverage, I was able to print my temporary insurance card.

The website provided a list of medical practitioners, which helped me select a nearby doctor who could see me within a week.

My doctor didn’t think I needed an X-ray, and said I had probably just suffered a deep-pressure bruise to my heel. He answered all my questions and gave me a physical. Ultimately, he gave me sense of relief.

I had given myself peace of mind by getting to a doctor and finding a health plan, but used limited research in my rush. I still was not sure that this was my best option for health care.

Although PCC does not offer a health insurance program, there is a convenient and affordable medical clinic located on a Pima campus.

The Marana Health Center provides students and non-students discounted health care at 12 clinics located throughout Marana and Tucson. One clinic is located next to the cafeteria on West Campus.

MHC will evaluate a patient’s income and provide health care at a very affordable rate.

In order to be evaluated, you need a month’s worth of paystubs or proof of income, proof of address (electric or utility bill) and government-issued identification.

If a person makes less than $900 per month, the co-pay is $15 to be seen by a physician. Prescriptions are also available with a discounted co-pay.

MHC also offers dental and specialty doctor options, with a separate program for hospital visits. There is no signup fee and no contract.

The health center offers the most affordable coverage that I found in Tucson. Once I discovered this, I cancelled my Blue Cross Blue Shield health plan.

In comparison with Blue Cross Blue Shield, MHC will save me $30 a month and $15 on each office visit.

My advice to fellow students in need of health care is to visit a MHC clinic, then seek cheaper alternatives. Don’t make the mistake I did, losing $50 because I did not know all of the options.

 

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Dental services available through Pima program

 

By RYAN TSARSIS

 

Finding a dentist in Tucson without insurance is tough. Many insurance plans have deductibles that allow a certain amount of coverage, causing a major toothache for those who can’t afford the extra work needed.

I recently received a free oral cleaning and teeth whitening from the Pima Community College West Campus Dental Hygiene Clinic during a health fair.

The visit stirred up bad memories from dental procedures past.

As a native of Freehold, N.J., I spend my summers back in the comforts of home. When my mother received an offer for a free whitening and X-ray, she encouraged me to visit the dentist’s office.

My simple trip to the dentist became an oral nightmare. Although my pearly whites were clean, the X-rays revealed eight cavities. It had been some time since my last visit, and I didn’t know how I could pay for the procedure.

I asked the dentist, a family friend, what the X-ray and whitening would cost without the special offer. He said $250.

My oral screening and whitening at Pima got me wondering what a whitening and X-ray procedure would cost at the Dental Hygiene Clinic. The answer: $70.

The low price encouraged me to research other opportunities the clinic has to offer.

Overall, the service fees were at times up to 80 percent less than a traditional dentist visit.

With slashed costs comes longer waits. Clinic workers stress that services may take multiple visits and up to three hours per visit. Dental hygiene students, under the supervision of licensed dental hygienists, provide the services.

The clinic provides PCC students with limited or even no insurance an opportunity to receive necessary dental services.

Clinic rates include whitening for $55, sealant for $15, periotherapies for $20 and screening X-rays from $15, among other services.

The Dental Hygiene Clinic is open to the general public. For more information, call 206-4500.

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