Foggy future of the Student Health Center

Executive director of student well being, Dianna Abel, speaking to a concerned student senate.

A significant portion of the student senate meeting on Sept. 26 was spent discussing the potential closure of the Student Health Center and a shift in how WSU provides healthcare to its students.

The student senate welcomed Jeff Hurst, interim VP and dean of students, and Dianna Abel, executive director of counseling, health and wellness, to speak about the Student Health Center’s future and the future of student healthcare at WSU.

Hurst said the university is currently in the process of considering outside proposals for student healthcare. This is in lieu of the continued operation of the Student Health Center, which is currently funded entirely through student fees.

The primary reason behind the university’s consideration to outsource student healthcare is decreased visitation numbers at the Student Health Center, according to Hurst. He added that this is a chance for WSU to explore opportunities that could result in improved healthcare options for WSU students.

“It’s about providing students with the potential for greater options in medical care, a greater variety of providers, a greater variety of possible procedures that may be covered and the possibility of a greater number of locations available for students who live all across the valley,” Hurst said.

Hurst also said that, due to the competitive nature of the procurement process, he cannot speak to the specifics of what outside organizations or facilities are being considered in the outsourcing of student healthcare.

Many of the details surrounding WSU’s process in selecting candidates for the outsourcing of student healthcare remain unknown. This includes what additional medical services would be made available to students as a result of this change or how such a change would be reflected in student fees.

“We want whatever that comes out of this to be at least as good as what we have, if not better,” Hurst said.

At this time, student fees enable WSU students to visit the Student Health Center for medical care without paying a copay. In the event that specialty care is needed, the Student Health Center can refer that patient to a separate medical provider to better accommodate the patient’s situation.

Although Hurst said student healthcare services will remain intact throughout the decision-making process, the specific timeframe in which this decision will be made is currently unknown.

“Our expectation is that the earliest anything would change — if it does change — would be the end of spring semester in 2023,” Abel said.

Concerns were raised by the student senate about how the outsourcing of student healthcare would affect international students or students who do not have health insurance. One of the crucial benefits that the Student Health Center currently offers is its ability to serve uninsured students. The specifics right now of how uninsured students will be affected by such a change remain unclear.

“We don’t know because we don’t have that figured out yet,” Abel said. “But what we can say is that our proposal, all the things we are looking for absolutely include international students being taken care of in as close to as the same way as they’re being taken care of now as possible.”

Abel added that this level of consideration will be given to students who don’t have health insurance.

“That goes for any student with insurance, no insurance, or under-insured,” Abel said. “Our whole goal here is to be responsible stewards of your student fees.”