Opinion: USG health fee increase will provide better healthcare for students

The increase accounts for extended hours and more specialized services

On Feb. 16, ASU’s Undergraduate Student Government approved a health bill to increase the health services fee by $15 per student per semester. 

Brittany Benedict, the president of USG Tempe, said that the bill was designed to expand the services offered by health services.

“The health bill was initially proposed because the council wanted to see an increase in services that are offered on all four campuses for health services," Benedict said. "In order to implement this, we had to pass this through all of our senates, so we sat down with our government operations and talked them through what we were doing and they created a bill for us.”

ASU's health fee is low compared to other colleges — while ASU's aggregate health and recreation fees were $130 per year before the health fee increase, the UA's combined health and recreation fee is $425 per year and NAU's is $500 per year. 

The collective benefits resulting from relatively small individual contributions provide affordable healthcare for ASU students.

Students will have easier access to health services with the extended weekend and weekday hours across all campuses, as well as with the implementation of Telehealth, a service that allows students to be diagnosed over the phone and offers online self-help tools. 

The health bill will also prioritize low-cost referrals for behavioral health. It is imperative for college students to have easy access to mental healthcare, given that 40.9 percent of ASU students reportedly felt too depressed to function, and 10.7 percent reportedly considered suicide, according to a survey conducted by the University.

Furthermore, the health bill will increase specialized health care with the introduction of nutritionists, sports medicine specialists and women’s health professionals. 

However, despite the vast increase in services offered at a low cost to the individual, not all students are satisfied.

On Feb. 13, four representatives against the proposed pay increase submitted a letter to the editor to The State Press, stating that the fee increase would be a burden on students and if USG plans to increase the health fee, they should also decrease the athletic fee.

“My initial thought is that fees don’t necessarily work that way — just because you increase one doesn’t mean you get to decrease another,” Benedict said. “We will be having an open conversation coming up shortly about the athletic fee. We haven’t decided what our plan is on that because we want to have feedback from the students."

The USG is also re-negotiating the athletics fee in light of the instances of misuse and surplus of student fees.

Students should realize that while the increase in fees is also accompanied by an increase in services provided, a decrease would likely diminish potential services.

“I understand where students are coming from,” Benedict said. “We are college students and we are trying to figure out what’s equitable for our students, but we can’t always promise that if we’re going to increase something we’re going to decrease another, because of the services that we’re offering on all fees. If you do make a decrease, you’ll have to cut some of those services.”

However, the USG recognizes the financial needs of students and suggests that students who may find themselves unable to pay the increased health services fee reach out to them.

“I think when we talk about affordability when it comes to college, I know our fees are small increments of money compared to tuition,” Benedict said. “If it is completely inequitable for students, we hope that they are reaching out to us to let us know so we can try to find avenues to help support them.”

The health fee increase, along with the new services provided, will go into effect for the Fall 2018 semester.

“We will be working with health services to really hit the ground running on all of these,” Benedict said. “We’re working over the summer to get everything in place for the fall semester to kick everything off.”

The health fee increase is for the benefit of the students. In the upcoming semester, students will be able to take advantage of the expanded and improved healthcare services available to them — all for a relatively low added cost.

Reach the columnist at kalbal@asu.edu or follow @KarishmaAlbal on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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