Budget time is just around the corner. As you begin your planning process, follow this simple and effective checklist to be sure that your health center’s budget does not come up short:
Make your health center part of the solution to a student affairs problem. When planning your budget, consider how your requests will also help the student affairs department to meet its objectives, and then be sure to articulate that. For instance, when requesting additional staff, think about making a case for how having more qualified professionals on hand in your health center will better enable you to keep students healthy and enrolled at your university.
Think like an MBA. Not all of us in health care have a business background, but the people who we report to probably do. Learn what makes these analytical types tick. Use and understand their language when making budget requests. Terms to know and use include “return on investment” (ROI), “profit margin”, “quality assurance”, and “operating costs”.
Engage in “Show and Tell.” Even though we are health care practitioners, health and counseling center staff also need to think of ourselves as marketing professionals. Hopefully, over the past year you have done a little public relations work for your department. Newsletter articles highlighting your health center, health promotion literature or survey results all serve as reminders of the value that you offer to your campus. Prepare a packet that showcases your efforts. Make sure that you measure results from each initiative and include those in the packet.
Chart your success. Remember, you are not just asking for a budget. You are justifying that you deserve it. Recall all of the things that you have done over the past year to provide for a healthier student population. Then, be prepared to tell your story. Produce charts and graphs that illustrate how you’ve moved the needle in various areas, including decrease in incidence of disease, percentage increase in number of students who show proof of immunization, increase over last year in numbers of student visits to your health center, etc.
A family health facility is an important consideration when choosing your family’s medical care. Discovering the right health center requires you to consider the family needs, proximity to your house, genetic conditions, practitioners at the center and type of services provided at the center. When choosing a health facility, you need to consider one that is included in your personal insurance provider’s network. Once you find a center that provides the right medical services, then you will have found a valuable resource.
If you are looking for medical care that caters for yourself and your family, it is advisable to choose a health facility that is located near you. This way you will not have to drive many miles away to see a healthcare provider or to have diagnostic tests. The health facility you choose should be located in a convenient and central location that makes it easy for you to access from home, work and/or school. This will give you an opportunity to receive a quick blood test before going to work. You can also afford to take one of your children for a physical exam after classes.
If you have recently moved to a new neighborhood, you can ask your neighbors to recommend a health facility. Find out the layout of the neighborhood to locate an outpatient center that is located conveniently to your home. Consult the directory for insurance provider’s network to find a health facility that has adequate staff of covered physicians.
· Insurance coverage
When choosing a health facility, the health insurance cover is an important consideration. If your family is a member of any managed care plan, you will be restricted to healthcare providers within the insurance provider’s network. The insurance networks consist of doctors and health centers that have entered into a contract with your insurance company to offer their services to clients at certain rates. Some care plans offer their clients the option of seeing healthcare providers outside the network but for a higher cost. For primary care, it is advisable to select an in-network doctor.
The best healthcare facility provides a variety of services all under one roof and offers a lot of convenience. Some of the medical services provided include general practitioners, pediatricians, obstetricians, dermatologists, dentists, orthopedists, ophthalmologists- among other services. This gives you an opportunity to schedule an appointment with different specialists operating in the same facility. Some centers provide a walk-in clinic to cater for urgent care, pharmacy and diagnostic testing services, such as blood tests and x-rays.
With college health centers facing significant increases in the costs to provide health care services, as well as decreases in their funding sources, many health center administrators are having to think outside of the box for ways to extend budgets and maintain a high quality of care for their student patients. As a result, more college health center directors and their staffs are turning to commercial insurance plans.
“Health centers at many public institutions used to get 100 percent of their funding from the state, but times are changing,” said Jennifer Lepus, director of university health services for the University of Maryland – Baltimore County.
The UM-BC student health center is one of hundreds nationally that have struggled with state budget cutbacks. Health centers at impacted schools may still receive some funding by offering student health insurance plans, but reimbursements from those plans – which are provided by a handful of companies that contract with colleges to offer exclusive group rated coverage to students – are typically not enough to support a health center budget.
“Our difficulty in offering only a group rated insurance program was that voluntary enrollment was not enough to sustain it,” said Western Kentucky University’s Health Services Director Libby Greaney. “So, WKU’s solution has been to accept commercial insurance plans, and file those claims.
WKU began billing insurance companies in 2001, after student health fees were cut the previous year.
“If your doctors are board-certified and credentialed, they can establish themselves as primary care physicians. This enables you to see community patients who are in-network with the plans that your health center accepts. If balanced properly, you can increase your service net and your revenue streams.”
According to Greaney, more and more schools are realizing the benefits of opening their health centers up to commercial plans, and taking a similar approach to WKU’s.
“People are beginning to see the need. They are talking about it and addressing it,” she said. “Those in college health who are resistant to the idea may be viewed as ‘old school’ if they do not embrace the concept.”
“More and more senior vice presidents at colleges are hearing about this approach, and are giving the directive to their health centers. I would encourage health center staff to be more in the driver’s seat.”
But Greaney also recognizes a natural conundrum. While accepting commercial carriers can open up additional revenue streams for college health centers, it may also impact access to care. The reality is that not every student enrolls in school with insurance coverage. Students without coverage either go without care, or must pay out of pocket for medical costs that are growing more expensive each year.
With the American College Health Association and some states calling for colleges and universities to provide health care coverage to all students, some schools are offering a menu of options.
For example, Lepus and her staff at UM-BC have opted to accept both a student health plan and plans from commercial carriers.
“If the goal is for every student to have coverage, we can achieve that by offering both options,” Lepus said. “The school plans are less expensive for people, but we have found that many young people today are covered by their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 23 years old. That means that a large number of students have coverage through private carriers, and it seems logical that when they come in to be seen, we can bill those insurance companies.”
The University of Utah at Salt Lake City is another example of a health center that has found that billing to commercial insurance carriers as well as offering a traditional student insurance plan through the university is a win-win for both students and the health center.
“By offering both options, we have a medium-sized pool of students who are required to come to us with their insurance, but we are also affordable and convenient for students with out of state insurance who will be paying out-of-network percentages or deductibles,” said Tiffany Smith, office manager/patient advocate for the University of Utah at Salt Lake City’s health center, which attracts about 7,000 students each year. “When we bill commercial insurance carriers, we make the process easier for our student patients, and this keeps them coming back to us in the future.”
We all know a nation’s wealth is determined by the health and well-being of its citizens. Community health centers across the country provide special care for everyone irrespective of their ability to pay. Their main aim is to provide continued, high quality and affordable healthcare to people especially those with fewer resources. Actually, one in every fifteen people living in the United States relies on their services. Even though these organizations face tremendous pressure, they still rank among the highest quality health providers in the nation in view of their critically important role.
The Importance of National Health Center Week
There are people out there who either have no insurance or live in areas with no access to healthcare providers or even basic health services. National Health Centre Week is observed each year in the second week of August mainly to raise awareness and recognize health centers and their dedicated service and contributions to the community. Why August? Because it is the perfect time to reach out to families with compelling summer health events and back-to-school immunizations for their kids. This year, National Health Center Week takes place August 13-19 and the theme is “Celebrating America’s Health Centers: The Key to Healthier Communities”. It is time to appreciate the great work of these people for providing better healthcare to the medically vulnerable.
Support Activities to Raise Awareness
Community health organizations across the nation will be posting their events under state listings on the National Association of Community Health Centers Week Events Map and attending any of these events gives you the chance to be part of something unique. Spread the word about their role, shedding more light on the health needs of your community.
You can become a health center advocate. Hand out flyers and brochures in farmers and super markets to promote healthy eating habits and regular physical exercise. Set up information tables and distribute pamphlets with answers to frequently asked questions about the whole campaign.
Organize a school health fair, featuring educational materials for parents. And remember: health related competitions for students with attractive prizes are always a good idea.
Contact local public officials, health authorities, community groups, and health organization representatives who would like to be involved in a public dialogue about health issues faced by your community, and bring them to the attention of local health professionals for a solution.
You can be one of those amazing people who volunteer and help by offering free health screenings on fitness tests, immunizations, blood pressure and more. Try opting for public places like entertainment centers, shopping malls, and churches.
To show your admiration for these people, you can post about their contribution on social media.
Support the cause and organize a lecture on community health and the services provided by migrant, public housing, homeless and migrant centers.
Contact religious institutions to discuss and mention various National Health Center Week activities in their bulletins so more people come to know about it.
Host an Awareness Event
Plan and host a local awareness event to help people learn more about the various programs and services of your local patient-directed health provider. Invite local sports players, journalists and of course – people working in such centers. This would be the best opportunity to show how much you appreciate their commitment. Ensure your event has as big of an impact as possible and distribute popular and impactful giveaways to the attendees. If you want to avoid the most common giveaway blunders, go through the wide selection of customized silicone wristbands available on the World Wide Web. Be creative – they can be personalized in a variety of different ways. Design a unique wristband online and add your local health center contact information. Take your pick from the richest collections of fun colors or color combinations, such as swirl, segmented, neon, glow-in-the-dark, or glitter to attract even more supporters!