Legislation, new health center to affect USC students

Experts discussed health care at USC and how recent legislation could affect students at a panel hosted by the Graduate Student Government on Wednesday.

According to Dr. Larry Neinstein, executive director of the University Park Health Center and associate dean of student affairs, total visits to the health center each year have risen from 30,000 in 1995 to 90,000. The number of students insured by USC has also risen from 3,000 students in 1995 to 22,000.

Expansion · Dr. Larry Neinstein, executive director of the University Park Health Center, said USC wants to expand insured dental services. - Chris Roman | Daily Trojan

The new health center facility is expected to open next January, allowing all health care services to be located in the same vicinity.

“Having that new building will really help. Right now, all the medical services are all over the place, and it’s confusing,” said Adriana Ardy, a graduate student studying public health.

Neinstein said the health canter provides a number of services for students, including unlimited primary and urgent care, labs, radiology, physical therapy, specialty clinics, health promotion and counseling.

Rynicia Wilson, a graduate student studying law, said the health center could better inform students about these services.

“It would help to make students aware of what benefits [they are] entitled to,” Wilson said. “The only reason I know about them is because I was an undergrad here. I just know that as a grad student, I get a bill that says health insurance, and I pay it.”

Students at the event also said university dental care was not comprehensive enough. Neinstein said the university is hoping to increase dental benefits to those with USC health insurance next year.

Paula Swinford, director of the Office for Wellness and Health Promotion, also emphasized a new initiative, Be Well USC, which was introduced in April 2011. The campaign focuses on wellness, health promotion and prevention.

[Correction: A previous version of this article said Paula Swinford is the director of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, an academic department. She is the director of the Office of Wellness and Health Promotion. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.]

“The program is really a collaborative effort,” Swinford said. “There are things that have nothing to do with health care that will determine whether or not you are healthy.”

Panelists addressed how students will be affected by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the health care act signed by Obama in March 2010. Under the new law, young adults will be able to stay on a parent’s health insurance roughly until the age of 26.

“This is a very important provision because if you look at the data, the highest percentage [of uninsured people] are in the young adult category, and you can imagine why,” said Dr. Michael Cousineau, director for the center of community health studies. “Students graduate, get their degrees, they’re going to be competing, they might not get a job right away in this economy. If they have to pay for a plan themselves, they are not going to want to shell out $300 a month when they’re trying to get their feet on the ground.”

Also, the advent of the Health Benefit Exchange, an online government program that is part of the PPACA and is still under construction, would allow for businesses to easily provide health insurance for employees. An  easier method of selecting health care plans could benefit students entering the workforce, Cousineau said.