Tag Archives: healthcare

Professor Bryan Whaley’s New Book on Communication in Healthcare Goes Beyond Good Bedside Manner

Rita McNeil
Contributing Writer 

USF Communication Studies Professor Bryan Whaley was in the oncology unit at the Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland back in 2004 with his then nine-year-old daughter, facing a situation he never thought possible. His daughter had been sick for weeks, and Whaley was told she might have colon cancer. As he sat in the waiting room, he watched as another young girl went in for chemotherapy and thought to himself, “I don’t believe I’m living through this.” Continue reading Professor Bryan Whaley’s New Book on Communication in Healthcare Goes Beyond Good Bedside Manner

Changes to USF Student Health Clinic: More Than Just a New Entrance

As of last June, the student health clinic has moved to a new location within St. Mary’s Medical Center, and with that, has acquired an all new staff of hospital administrators and physicians.

Up until the end of spring semester, USF’s student health clinic was located on the second floor of St. Mary’s Medical Center, at Stanyan St., and was operated primarily by two nurse practitioners.

The USF student health clinic is now located on the 5th floor of St. Mary’s Medical, at 2250 Hayes St. — one block down from the entrance of the previous clinic. It is now operated by two physicians: one male and one female.

After a mutual agreement with the nurse practitioners, the University decided to move its student clinic to a different location with a different staff “in order to better satisfy the needs of students,” said Kamal Harb, director of Health Promotion Services at USF. With an influx of students with extensive health problems, the University lacked a clinic that could provide a wider scope of services.

According to Harb, the new physicians are able to serve more students per day, and they are more comfortable prescribing medications. Without a required 30 minute time slot for each student, the physicians assess most student health concerns within 10–15 minutes. In turn, they are able to help lower the general time spent in the waiting room and increase their number of daily appointments.

While the former student health clinic nurse practitioners were not comfortable prescribing psychiatric medication or oral contraceptives to students due to the risk of side effects as well as religious restrictions within St. Mary’s, the physicians — now under new hospital management and California State law — can provide students with both short-term psychiatric medication and oral contraceptives. “The physicians are okay prescribing psych meds for a temporary time until students see a psychologist for further evaluation,” explained one hospital administrator at the USF student health clinic front desk.

Under the rules of Aetna, the healthcare provider for USF’s student health insurance, physicians are now required, if requested, to give certain forms of contraceptives for female students at student healthcare clinics throughout California. This policy overrides any restrictions laid out in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” to which St. Mary’s adheres.

An addendum to the Aetna plan, issued September 2012, states that “female contraceptives that are generic prescription drugs,” “female contraceptive devices and related services and supplies that are generic,” and “FDA-approved female over-the-counter contraceptive methods that are prescribed by your physician” are covered expenses under all California student healthcare insurance plans.

“To be honest, we needed to have a clinic for students,” Harb said, adding, “USF did not intentionally seek out the clinic because it served birth control — it was a part of a package that included a wider range of health services for the benefit of students.”

So far, Harb and students have reacted positively to the new student health clinic.

“I’ve been very happy with the [new clinic],” Harb said. “The physicians are extremely responsive; [they] offer a greater scope of services and are very quick.”

While many students have had positive feelings towards the new student health services and clinic location, there are others who found the switch shocking.

“It was hard developing a relationship with one of the nurse practitioners and then being expected to switch doctors,” said senior communications major Maude Ballinger.

The change in USF’s health care service follows a change in hospital ownership, after Dignity Health Care Group bought St. Mary’s Medical Center and St. Francis Memorial Hospital earlier this summer, Harb said.

“I’ve heard no complaints about the switch,” he said. Harb invites any students with positive or negative feedback about the new student health clinic to let him know their thoughts.

Staff Editorial: USF Moves Forward with Healthcare Reform

What the Foghorn thinks of the student clinic changes

Attention all students under the weather: USF’s student health clinic has gotten much better! Okay, it might be too early for holiday rhymes but it is never too early to catch a cold — and though nobody wants to spend their November afternoon stifling sniffles (and who knows what else) in the doctor office waiting room, we at the Foghorn are extremely grateful for the improvements made, both practical and ideological, to the USF student health clinic, especially in regards to oral contraception.

As of June 2013, USF’s student health care clinic has relocated to a new floor with a new staff and new caregivers within St. Mary’s Medical Center — and apparently, it is all in the name of better accommodating us, the students. With a larger freshman class accepted into the university each year, it follows that the percentage of students who suffer from extensive health problems also increases. In response to the growing need of more accommodating health services, Kamal Harb, the director of health promotion services, and various other members of the university community struck a mutual agreement with nurse practitioners to move the USF student health clinic elsewhere in the medical center.

The new student health clinic, as a result of the nurses, administrators, and two responsive and fast-paced primary physicians, offers more available appointment times, shorter waiting lines, and a wider range of health services for students.

USF’s new student clinic accommodates far more than extensive health problems; it also gives students more access to oral contraceptives. Both USF and St. Mary’s are Catholic institutions, and the medical center has long since abided by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services that forbids the condonement of any sort of preventive contraceptive, unless in extreme cases. USF is now in a contract with Dignity Health Medical Group, the new owner of St. Mary’s, and the physicians at the USF student health clinic can now prescribe oral contraceptives to female students.

While a California mandate has required that all state health insurance policies with prescription drug benefits include coverage for prescription contraceptives since 2004, Catholic institutions around the nation have since been adjusting to the recent federal contraception mandate. The president of Georgetown, the oldest Jesuit university in America, sent out a university-wide email on Aug. 15 of this year, that read: “These regulations give us the opportunity to reconcile our religious identity and our commitment to providing access to affordable health care.” The email also said that the university’s insurance companies would cover the cost of contraceptive services for faculty, staff, and students who opt to use them.

In recognition of the steps taken to accommodate students’ diverse medical needs, we applaud USF for embracing change and progress of the times. As a Jesuit institution, we must appreciate the fact that USF has decided to move forward in terms of providing coverage for such a necessity despite the religious controversy that surrounds oral contraception.

USF Students and Health Care: What Does it Mean For You?

Tanya Dzekon
Staff Writer

Ienna Dela Torre, a junior politics major, ended up in the Emergency Room last year with food poisoning and received a bill of about $2,000 — even though she was on the USF health care plan.

“Now I’m afraid of getting sick because I literally can’t afford to,” she said.

Dela Torre is planning to explore new options with the online health insurance marketplace that began enrollment on Oct. 1. The marketplace is part of provisions made under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a law implementing universal health care for Americans.

All full-time USF students have a health care plan through their parents or the university, but the ACA, widely known as Obamacare, offers new health insurance options. The challenge presented is figuring out exactly what those options are. A Kaiser Family Foundation/ NBC survey about the new health care options found that almost half of respondents were “confused” by the law.

Under the ACA, California residents can use Covered California, a website where private health providers compete to provide coverage through a state-run marketplace. The website also provides a cost-assistance calculator, which helps determine whether an individual qualifies for subsidized health care on a sliding scale, with more financial support for those who earn less.

“The student health plan here is good, but not great. I’m hoping to find a plan with more coverage for about the same price as what I pay for USF, if not less,” said Dela Torre.

The USF-sponsored plan expands medical coverage under the Affordable Care Act

The ACA has raised the bar for health coverage, and USF Health Promotion Services (HPS) has made changes on the insurance plan they offer students. The benefits maximum has been raised from $100,000 to $500,000 to meet the requirements of the policy.

“I encourage students to compare the benefits and the prices,” said Femi Bamidele, assistant director at HPS, “so they can make an informed decision about whether they want to stick on the student health insurance plan or purchase a comparable plan on the marketplace.”

The Covered California marketplace offers different levels of health coverage — catastrophic, bronze, silver, gold, and platinum — and students wishing to opt-out of the student plan must purchase a level silver or higher through the exchanges.

According to HPS, 32% of USF students are enrolled in the university’s health plan.

The USF-sponsored plan expires on July 31 for students graduating in Spring, and on December 31 for those graduating in Fall.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the cut-off age for “children” is 26

Because of a 2010 ACA provsion, students can be added or kept on their parent’s insurance until the age of 26, if the plan covers children.

“I hope I’m not still using my father’s insurance that long,” said Meagan Cuthill, a senior media studies student, “but it’s a great back up if someone really does need that much time to figure out their finances.”

Leah Nadeau graduated with a media studies major in May 2013 and she is still covered on her parent’s insurance.“Until I get a job that does include benefits, it’s a good back up plan that I can turn to. I have a few health issues so being without health insurance isn’t an option.”

Nadeau added that she is worried employers are now less willing to hire full-time workers because they’ll be required to provide extensive coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

“I interviewed for a job in July that was only willing to hire me for part time because they didn’t want to provide benefits,” she said. “Basically, I would be working just under 2 hours a week of what would equate to full time work, just so the company could avoid giving me benefits.”

The ACA requires large employers (with 50 or more full-time workers) to offer health coverage to their full-time employees or pay a penalty.

The CEO of Trader Joe’s recently announced, through a company-

wide memo, that the company would stop offering health care coverage for workers who carry less than 30 hours because the company must offer more extensive coverage to full-time employees under the ACA. Trader Joes is offering part-time workers, who will be losing their health coverage, a check for $500 and guidance toward finding a new health plan under the ACA.

On July 2, the US Department of Treasury announced that it would provide an additional year before the mandatory employer requirements begin, under the title “Continuing to Implement the ACA in a Careful, Thoughtful Manner.” Employers have until January 1, 2015 to provide coverage for their full-time workers.

Media Coverage of the ACA hasn’t made it easier to decipher the 2,700 page piece of legislation

A Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll conducted September 12-18 shows that only 6% of those polled said they think the news media’s coverage of the health care law is about how the law might impact people, while 56% said it was mostly about politics and controversies.

Generation Opportunity, an organization campaigning to get young people to “opt-out” of the ACA, put out an infamous advertisement they titled “Creepy Uncle Sam.” In the ad, an Uncle Sam puppet pops out from between a young girl’s legs during her visit to the gynecologist followed by the message, “don’t let the government play doctor.” Generation Opportunity encourages Americans to pay the $95 fee applied by the government if you don’t obtain coverage by March 1, 2014.

“The fine for not buying insurance is $95 or 1% of your income, whichever is higher. It could potentially be much higher than $95,” said Linda Leu, the California Policy and Research Director at Young Invincibles, an organization focused on representing the interests of 18-34 year-olds in the debate over health care reform. Leu added that the fine could be $95 the first year, but will increase exponentially the longer an individual remains uninsured.


If you need help figuring out your health plan, you can contact Covered California or schedule an insurance appointment with USF Health Promotion Services.  

Affordable Care Act Bears Hope For the Future

My name is Andrea Hans. I am a senior sociology student. I am twenty-three years old and after a year and a half of battling illness, I received a bill yesterday for $68, 598. I dedicated the last six years of my life to working in healthcare when in  2012,  a mass was discovered in my brain. Although benign, it requires constant medical follow-up and treatment with antiepileptic drugs. With insurance, the cost of my medication alone totals nearly $600 a month.  For this reason, I fill the prescription overseas, where I can acquire a four-month supply for $55.

Medical bills have become the number-one reason for bankruptcy filings in the United States. A study published by the Journal of Health Affairs uncovered that 54.5% of personal bankruptcies were attributed to medical problems. While this might astound many, this is not surprising to me – my mother who suffers from two rare autoimmune disorders and nearly went into liver failure in 2008, filed for bankruptcy in 2011 when the hospital and doctor bills grew too large to ignore.

On Oct. 1, online exchanges that will allow uninsured Americans to easily compare and purchase insurance premiums take effect, as one of the final phases of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Yet, a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 40% of Americans are still unsure of what this reform means.  And with all the campaigns to block and defund the ACA, many are unclear if the health reform law is still indeed going into effect. In fact, Senator Ted Cruz’s attempted twenty-two hour filibuster on Tuesday to defund health care reform was less than three hours away from defeating the longest filibuster in United States history, third to Senator Strom Thurmond’s (R- South Carolina) 1957 filibuster opposing the Civil Rights Act.

Simply put, the purpose of the Affordable Care Act is to expand coverage to those who were previously being denied by insurance companies. These patients were considered too sick to cover; it will also cover those unemployed and unable to afford private insurance options, and to those who did not previously meet Medicaid eligibility. However, for those of us who already have insurance and still struggle with the cost of care, it is clear health reform has only begun. We can eat right and exercise, but illness can strike at any age, and the endurance that one must have to overcome physical and emotional challenges in fighting to stay healthy should not be accompanied by undue financial stress.

As I began to lose my hair last year because of aggressive medical treatments, I knew I could not give up.  I will keep fighting because I am a survivor, with or without $68, 598.  Nevertheless, from the perspective of a future physician and a patient, no one should face the prospect of filing bankruptcy due to overwhelming medical debt.  While not the end to a tremendous and complex social problem, the Affordable Care Act is a hopeful step in the right direction.