Free health services available for uninsured students

by News Editor Anna Brown

Sickness, injuries and medical emergencies can happen anywhere and any time, even when students are far from home.

Some students do not have medical insurance or do not have access to their parents’ insurance cards or family doctor.

University Health Services and the Lauderdale County Health Department offer many services to students with or without insurance.

“We try to provide services for free as much as we can,” said University Health Services Nurse Practitioner Laura Garrett. “While there is a fee is medications, we try to keep them low-cost.”

University Health Services provides primary care to students at Bennett Infirmary on Circular Drive below the Science and Technology Building.

The infirmary accepts walk-ins from 8 until 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Students may schedule an appointment from 1 to 3:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

“We provide the same care to students with or without health insurance,” Garrett said. “We are a walk-in clinic. We only take care of acute illnesses — those that can’t wait until a student can see a primary care provider.”

The infirmary treats common acute cases like urinary tract infections, strep, mono, headaches and minor cuts and abscesses, she said. The infirmary also provides free immunizations and free pregnancy and STI testing.

Each visit to see the provider at the infirmary is free, Garrett said. She said usually the only fee is for certain pathology testing, like for a pap smear and the cost of medications.

“The cost for medications is about the same as someone who had health insurance would pay at the pharmacy,” she said. “We try to give medications we have here because some students don’t have transportation to a pharmacy.”

Garrett said the Student Health Fee every full time student must pay covers the cost of the services provided by Bennett Infirmary and University Health Services.

In addition to these services, the infirmary also provides free “well woman” visits for female students. Women can get breast exams, pap smears and a written prescription for birth control at the infirmary.

“There is a charge for pap smears, but it’s cheaper than if the student went to an OB-GYN for a pap without insurance,” she said.

If a student does have health insurance, the infirmary does not bill to their insurance.

“There are lots of rules to (billing insurance companies),” Garrett said. “It opens up a lot of things that would make it difficult to see the uninsured.”

Senior Danielle Stokes said she does not have health insurance. She said she goes to the infirmary for care when over-the-counter medications are not strong enough to get rid of her sickness. Stokes

“I’m usually pretty healthy so I do not go seeking out a lot of medical help unless I feel very badly,” Stokes said.

While the health department does not provide emergency care, it also provides many free services to uninsured students.

The health department provides free STD and pregnancy testing, said Nurse Supervisor Camonica Graham.

Women ages 19 to 55 without insurance can get free birth control, breast exams and pap smears from the health department through the Plan First family planning program, Graham said.