Medical care available for students at MU

Thursday, July 30, 2009 | 12:26 p.m. CDT; updated 12:38 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 30, 2009

Columbia has three major hospitals plus a variety of specialists and clinics.

In the downtown area are Boone and Columbia Regional hospitals. University Hospital at MU is a teaching institution that serves the community and the region.

At MU is the Student Health Center, a 10-minute walk from most residence halls with a staff of board-certified doctors and nurses.

Columbia is prepared for medical emergencies, but are you? 

“You don't want to think about it, but you need to be prepared if something were to happen,” said David Dale, a senior information specialist at the Student Health Center.

Students should arrive on campus with their health history, that of their family and their insurance plans.

“This is a transition time,” Dale said. “We want to educate students on the medical process and how important it is to know your health history. You should know your family health history. Do you have a history of heart disease? This information is important."

All students taking more than six units are charged a mandatory pre-paid health fee of $92.78. This gives you unlimited consultations with a provider at the health center.

Walk-ins are no longer allowed, but the schedule is open in the morning, so appointments can be made the same day. According to Dale, the center has been doing this for a year, and 94 percent of clients say they are very satisfied.

“This means we can see them quicker and for longer in the exam room," he said.

In the case of an emergency, students are advised to call 911. The campus medical center is not an emergency room, Dale said. University Hospital is next door to the center for urgent care.

MU does have a strict immunization policy. All students must be immunized against measles, mumps and rubella.

Those staying in a residence hall must have a meningococal vaccine or sign a waiver stating they have been warned of the risk but have chosen not to have it.

A tuberculosis screening may be required for those at high risk of carrying it. This applies to anyone who has come in contact with it, was born in a high risk country or worked in health care profession or prison. Those who have had testing within the United States in the last 12 months do not need it.

A consultation cost about immunizations is covered by the pre-paid health fee, but not the vaccinations themselves. These can be administered by representatives of the health center, but Dale suggested bringing evidence of past vaccinations to campus. The Student Health Center accepts all past records.

“Even if you're not sure, we can try and track down records for you," Dale said. "We want students to be compliant."

Those who aren't immunized by their second semester will not be able to register for classes.

Students with a chronic illness, extreme asthma for example, should arrange an appointment to discuss treatment.

Dale described the process: “We meet with you and your parents before you start and assign you a physician.”

Students continue to see the same physician during their stay in Columbia.

In terms of lab facilities, “we're very fortunate,” Dale said. “Our fees are low compared to elsewhere, and we have more staff than most labs." 

The pre-paid medical fee does not cover tests, however. All injections, medication and tests must be paid for separately. Insurance may cover these costs.

The in-network providers are Tricare and the MU Accident and Sickness Plan. In-network means that the medical center has a signed agreement with the provider to make payment easier and quicker.

Domestic students are not required to have insurance, but Dale “highly recommends it even if you're just on your parents' insurance.” Medical expenses can be quite high.

MU offers an insurance policy called the Accident and Sickness Plan. Dale said it is important to know that this is not a wellness plan. It covers sickness, accident and women's annual health treatments only. The plan can also only be purchased within the first 30 days of the semester.

Those without insurance can pay with cash or credit, or decline the service.

Medication can be purchased from the pharmacy inside the health center during business hours. It operates independently of the medical center but accepts student charge.

Dale recommends it. Otherwise the Walgreen's downtown is a 24-hour drive-through and walk-in pharmacy.

The Student Health Center is about more than treating cold and flu, Dale said. It operates on what he calls an integrated health model.

“We're not here to just take care of students when they are sick. We want to help them make healthy decisions."

Surveys have indicated that stress is the No. 1 health factor affecting academic performance. It can lower an immune system, cause mental anguish and affect relationships.

As part of of the pre-paid health fee, students get four visits to both a psychologist and psychiatrist. Relaxation classes like yoga are also covered.

The health promotion department of the center also sponsors student-run health advocacy groups. Sexual Health Advocate Peer Education is an example. Members go into residence halls promoting healthy sexual activity. They teach respect for a partner, how alcohol can affect relationships, contraception use and more.

Student Health Center Hours of Operation

8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

9 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday

The center is closed every day from 11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m.

Medical Checklist: Information to bring to MU

•Family history

• Allergies

• Insurance

• Vaccination records for measles, mumps and rubella; meningococal for dorm residents; tuberculosis screening for high-risk student

 Know your entitlements

• Unlimited doctors consultations

•  Four psychologist visits

• Four psychiatrist visits

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