One of the most important features of an accessible campus is affordable, high-quality health care. Swarthmore should prioritize accessibility, but it is simply not doing enough to make the campus accessible. The services offered by Worth Health Center need improvements in order for Swarthmore to be the open, inclusive, and accessible campus that it strives to be.
Two problems that limit Worth’s accessibility are that it provides only limited services and has inadequate hours. Worth has to refer students with many health conditions to outside care because it provides somewhat limited treatments and simple lab tests. This means that students may have to seek health care elsewhere, leading to expensive co-pays with disproportionate burdens on low-income students. Compounding this problem, some of the services that Worth offers are not free, so even the health care that students obtain on campus may not be financially accessible.
Flu shots cost $25 for students not on the college’s health insurance plan, and students can receive reimbursement through their insurance only after fronting the cost or adding it to their Swarthmore bill and providing a receipt to their insurance. Students who have health insurance could get a flu shot for free at a pharmacy. Worth should develop the capability to offer students with insurance a flu-shot without requiring them to handle the reimbursement themselves, or look into the possibility of providing free flu shots to all students, as many universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, already do.
While Swarthmore does increase student access to health insurance by requiring all enrolled students to be covered by a health insurance plan, some students covered by health insurance plans not sponsored by the college may find that Worth’s services, such as STI testing or blood tests, are not in their health insurance provider network. Additionally, Worth’s pharmacy is limited, and out of a mere three pharmacies within walking distance, only one delivers to Worth. Worth should work to increase accessibility to students by having multiple pharmacies delivering to the health center as well as expanding its hours so students can pick-up medications at a wider range of times and on weekends.
Worth is also only open on weekdays, at hours during which many students are in class. It is only open after 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. In other words, students have no place to get health care on campus if they face injuries or other urgent health concerns on weekends or on most weekday evenings. Worth is also closed during breaks, despite the large number of students — low-income and international students in particular — who stay on campus at these times. If students avoid going to the emergency room when Worth is closed, they could be left with health problems that harm their bodies. To its credit, Worth does provide an emergency nurse on-call number for students to call after-hours but wait times can be nearly an hour.
We, at The Phoenix, believe that the college should continue to invest in improving Worth and expanding access to healthcare for students. Swarthmore’s professed commitment to a “cash-free campus” must extend fully to student health services — access to health care should be available to everyone on this campus, regardless of income and socioeconomic status.