This Monday, Alice Holland sent out an email with information about flu shots. In the email, she stated that flu shots would cost students 25 dollars upfront to be paid either in cash or check, or billed to students’ accounts. Those students could get a receipt to send to their insurance companies for reimbursement. Swarthmore is supposed to be a cash-free campus, yet flu shots, a service almost all students should get, pose a financial barrier that stands in the way for some. The email noted that students with financial need could talk to the health center and get a fee waiver, but this cost still will create a burden for many students getting flu shots. Because flu prevention is most effective when rates of inoculation are high, Worth Health Center has a responsibility to make sure that students can easily get flu shots.
While many students have Swarthmore’s insurance plan and avoid this problem, many more have private insurance. These students’ insurance plans typically cover flu shots and the reimbursement system creates a hassle for these students. Normally, when students go to the doctor’s office or a pharmacy, they give their insurance information up front and then are not charged for the flu shot. Worth Health Center is apparently unable to utilize this convenient system that makes annual vaccinations more easily accessible for students. Reimbursements take time, and 25 dollars is not a trivial amount of money. Students are asked to deal with the bureaucracy of their insurance companies rather than Worth Health center dealing with bureaucracy instead. This may lead to less students getting flu shots to avoid the additional hassle. As a result, students may wait to get a flu shot until they go home for fall break or put it off until it is too late.
It is also important, as Holland states in her email, that students who are concerned about financial hardship can talk to the staff at the health center in order to get the fee waived. It would be significantly easier for those students if they were able to get the flu shot covered by their insurance upfront rather than having to go through the extra step of having to talk to a staff member.
Swarthmore should take the extra step to make flu shots easier and more accessible by finding a way to make flu shots a simpler choice for students by removing potential barriers. Students should get flu shots, not only for their own health outcomes but to protect others from the flu as well, and the college should facilitate this process in any way possible.