Privacy and Billing at the Student Health Service

HIPAA. Permission to treat. Co-pay. Financial policy. Disclosure. Credentialed. Explanation of Benefits. Flex-spending. These terms are normal-speak for the Student Health Service; a foreign language to most college students.

Quite often, when we see a first-year student in our office it’s their initial visit to a doctor without Mom or Dad. With your support and tutelage, your student can be a confident adult and strong advocate of his/her own healthcare.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is the federal privacy law that governs the Student Health Service. In summary, HIPAA protects each patient’s privacy. The law stipulates that medical information can only be released to others by the patient’s written permission. We review HIPAA and our Privacy Practices with our patients, explaining our restrictions. We obtain their signature to allow us to bill insurance and as confirmation that they understand HIPAA. If your student is under 18 years, we may need a parental guardian's permission to treat. 

If a student requests that information be released, a disclosure form must be completed. The form is simple and is available to the student at any time during their visit. Please note that the FERPA release that your student may have completed for the administrative offices on campus has nothing to do with the Student Health Service. The disclosure remains active until the student withdraws it.

We also share our financial policy with our patients explaining that their visit will generate a bill. Anything the insurance company doesn't pay for becomes the patient’s financial responsibility. Furthermore, like most medical offices, we charge for missed appointments.

The Student Health Service is in-network with most major insurance companies. We are able to bill for office visits, labs, shots and other ancillary services. Once we receive an Explanation of Benefits and/or payment on a claim, any fees deemed “patient responsibility” are placed on your student’s bursar bill. If you receive an Explanation of Benefits, you’ll already be aware before these fees show up on the bursar bill. Your co-pay is an example of a charge that may be posted to the bursar bill. Claims are filed weekly. Postings to the bursar bill sometimes happen months after the student’s appointment.

Our pharmacy is not credentialed with any insurance company. If a purchase is made at our pharmacy, your student’s payment options are their bursar bill, VISA, MasterCard or we are able to take most major flex-spending accounts. Using the pharmacy receipts, you may file a claim with your insurance company. Students are free to choose whether they use our pharmacy or go to an outside pharmacy.

Your expertise in explaining these terms to your student will go a long way in removing the anxiety of new experiences. Give your student both an insurance card and a flex-spending card so they can turn knowledge into action.

Please direct any questions to shsmiami@trihealth.com.