In last week’s article, ‘How we’re getting screwed with UR’s health care,” I discussed how health insurance works here at UR. The school requires all students to have it. I didn’t have any, so I bought it from the school. That was in the summer. Over winter break, I learned a fun fact about the Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield plan the University offers to students. Namely, that it only covers services received in Monroe County, Rochester. On the other hand, horrendous tragedies requiring emergency attention are covered throughout the United States. Well, that’s a nice perk.

But that makes a certain amount of sense, right? For the year I have this plan, I’ll probably be spending two-thirds of my time in Monroe County. So, potentially, it’s not a big deal. That is, not a big deal if the University told you this up front. Not only does it not tell you, but for reasons elucidated in my article last week, administrators make it very likely that you won’t find out.

Now maybe there’s some fine print at the bottom of the page saying something to the effect of ‘restrictions may apply,” ‘while supplies last” or some other McCrap. In fact, there is. And, that would probably hold up in court. However, what it is, is bad business. If a salesman hides a ‘jk” clause in the fine print of a contract, yanks the product out of the customer’s hand as they are putting down the pen, shows that customer the contract and gives him the finger, it is only a matter of time until the salesman goes out of business. He won’t get sued, but what he will eventually end up with is a bunch of pissed-off ex-customers, like me, who will publicly drag his name through the dirt.

But, maybe UR doesn’t care. After all, it almost has all of the $50K I owe from this year (the last payment is just a month away) as well as the $150K from the three years before this one. If it isn’t broken…

Indeed, it seems that dollars trump ethics for UR, which may explain why the Excellus BCBS plan also doesn’t cover prescription drugs (with the exception of insulin). Isn’t that a good trick? UR covers its royal rear by making you insure yourself. You buy this junk plan that costs the University next to nothing to offer, but is just sufficient enough to cover the rare instances of extreme catastrophe that have the potential to threaten its sweaty white-knuckled grip around the piggybank aptly named ‘endowment.” It doesn’t even offer extra coverage at an additional charge.

How does the University rationalize this egregious failure to ensure the health and well-being of the student body? It is betting on the fact that the majority of students will be covered under a parent’s health plan obtained through an employer. But this leaves some people out, like students 22-years of age and older. What about the students who are not fortunate enough to have a stable familial foundation to rely upon when in need? I bet it would be nice if the University stepped up and displayed a genuine interest in their well-being. And, what about students whose families have been adversely affected by the state of the economy (and those who will be) and no longer have health care through an employer? Suddenly, they’re faced with having to pay into an expensive Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act program or to go without insurance. Sure would be nice if the University were to look out for its own during these tough times.

I find these circumstances infuriating because they contradict numerous principles the University prides itself in exemplifying. Take the school’s motto, ‘Meliora,” for example. Ever better? I thought Meliora expressed the University’s commitment to progress and diversity. Yet the Excellus BCBS plan is representative of a calculated decision on the University’s part to ignore the demographic minority students who don’t have health insurance because their age disqualifies them from their parents health plans.

The University is eager to draw attention to the fact that, among its other accomplishments, the School of Medicine and Dentistry is ranked 19th among ‘primary care” graduate schools in the country. The health care it offers to its students, on the other hand, is a step in the opposite direction.

Then there’s the Health Promotion Office within University Health Services. On UHS’s Web site, the purpose of this office is identified as ‘to emphasize awareness of current health issues, prevention of disease and illness, and promotion of health and wellness.” I have a suggestion: it involves medicine and giving it to people who need it. Isn’t that what’s being taught over at the Medical Center? Could anything be more fundamental to promoting health and preventing disease?

On the URMC Web site, the University proudly boasts that ‘Rochester consistently ranks among the top 30 institutions, both public and private, in federal funding for research and development.” Oh, I get it. Promoting health and wellness is important to UR when it gets the school federal funding.

Don’t ever expect to see another dollar from me after the last tuition payment in March. But, the University doesn’t care. I’m small potatoes. It’s sickening in more ways than one.

I wrote to UHS over winter break expressing my dissatisfaction with the fact that the Excellus BCBS plan offered to UR students does not cover prescription drugs, nor is such coverage available at extra cost. I was happy to hear from the Associate Director of the Health Promotion Office, Linda Dudman, Monday of this week.

This is part two of a two-part series.

Sondey is a member of
the class of 2009.

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