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GPSC sounds off on health care issues

Members of the Graduate and Professional Student Council voiced their concerns about student health insurance at their meeting Tuesday.

Dr. Devdutta Sangvai, a consulting associate at the Medical Center, presented information from the health insurance plan regarding claims that students have submitted over the past two years.

Sangvai, who is also a second-year student at the Fuqua School of Business, said that between 4,500 and 5,000 individuals are covered by the health plan, adding that the data were relevant since 75 percent of those covered are graduate and professional students.

One of the charts compared services requested under the student health plan to national averages.

"One that sticks out is mental disorders, which is about 400 times the norm," Sangvai said.

"For those students who come to us saying they are depressed or stressed and can't handle their classes, we sent them to [Counseling and Psychological Services]."

Both Sangvai and Director of Student Health Dr. Bill Christmas praised CAPS, saying that it reduced the cost of mental health visits for students. However, they had other concerns about the popularity of CAPS and similar programs nationwide.

"There is a two-week waitlist and a limit--about 10 to 12--on the number of visits," Christmas said. "With student health we increase that number to 40 or 50. What this has done is take the pressure off CAPS."

Another point of contention was denied claims, including airlifting ill or injured students doing field work in foreign countries back to Durham.

"It seems a little ridiculous that there are several students out there who need to get supplemental coverage [for these situations]," said Jandy Hanna, GPSC secretary and a graduate student in biological anthropology and anatomy.

Several more students were concerned that they did not know what was covered by the student health plan.

"If students go to student health to get shots, that might be a good time to tell them," said Elayne Heisler, a fourth-year sociology graduate student. Heisler, who also serves as GPSC's ombudsperson, added that this would complement the updated first-year orientation manuals, which detail some parts of the plan.

Ben Cooke, a graduate student in mathematics, voiced a need for more days when students could go to a central location for preventative care, such as flu shots and cholesterol screenings.

"I find the days when you can go get those shots very helpful," he said.

GPSC Vice President Audrey Beck agreed, saying the problem was with current communication methods.

"Maybe there is one flyer in the department," said Beck, a third-year sociology student. "Maybe you see it, maybe not. I think a lot more people would go to those things if they knew about them."

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