Expensive mistakes

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November 5, 2013

12:01 AM

The Student Assembly’s $9 subsidization of Student Health Center STI tests is a valuable service to College of William and Mary students. But it can only be valuable when students actually pay less. A miscommunication between the Health Center and the SA resulted in students being charged the full, unsubsidized price for these services from September until the last week in October. This was brought to students’ attention at last week’s SA meeting when Secretary of Health and Safety Alicia Moore ’14 revealed the Health Center had not been billing the SA. While we do not intend to point fingers — the SA and Health Center should share the responsibility — we implore them both to improve communication and ensure this never happens again.

Making STI tests cheaper reduces the financial burden of remaining healthy and promotes the general sexual health of the entire student body. The trick, it seems, is making sure students benefit from this policy.

This is not the first time something like this has happened: Last January, when the SA froze the account that paid for student STI tests in full to investigate low funds, the Health Center continued to offer tests for free, leading to a deficit of $2,100, which the SA owed the Health Center. It is understandably challenging for a student-run legislative body and a health facility operated by campus employees to smoothly coordinate subsidies for certain medical services. But if the SA and the Health Center do not come up with an effective way of communicating these changes, these mistakes will happen again and students will continue to lose trust in both the SA and the Health Center.

To prevent further miscommunication, the SA must further improve oversight of Health Center billing. Moore’s decision to update the SA monthly on this issue is an important step toward avoiding these mistakes and detecting and correcting futures ones. Similarly, the Health Center, which charges students for STI tests, should make a special effort to ensure that students are not incorrectly charged. As a sign of good faith, the SA should stress to the Health Center the need to compensate students who were overcharged earlier this semester. Although the SA itself cannot compensate those students due to confidentiality issues, it could provide the necessary funds to the Health Center so that compensation is possible.

Even if efforts were made to communicate between the SA and the Health Center and avoid incorrect charges, things went awry somewhere. Both organizations need to hold themselves accountable for the mistake, and both need to implement policies to amend this mistake and to prevent a recurrence.

Equally important will be future efforts by the Health Center to inform students of these revised STI test prices. Had students been more aware of the correct prices, it would not have taken two months for anyone to realize the Health Center was overcharging. The Health Center needs to make it known to students what they should be paying, so if there are any billing mistakes, students can spot them immediately.

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