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Health care billing changes affect students

Laura Vilim | Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The University Health Center Pharmacy recently announced that Notre Dame students who fill their prescriptions at Osco Pharmacy will no longer be able to bill the cost of their medication to their student account, but will now have to bill their insurance company directly.

The change in policy, which will go into effect May 1, results from the campus pharmacy’s decision to close its unique account with Osco that previously allowed students to fill prescriptions at the drug store and bill their student accounts in cases of emergency.

Because the Osco pharmacist would contact a UHC pharmacist who would then bill the student’s account, this policy made it easier for students to pick up prescriptions quickly without having to present their insurance cards or pay out of pocket co-pays.

However, this easier way to fill prescriptions began to be used more often than on the emergency basis for which it was intended. According to Notre Dame pharmacist Betsy Creary, the account created extra work for Notre Dame’s own pharmacists, who had to act as the middlemen between Osco and the students’ insurance companies.

“[The account] was being used beyond the purpose for which it was intended,” Creary said. “[It became] too much for us to manage.”

Creary emphasized the fact that students will not be paying more for prescriptions under the new policy, and their insurance companies will still be covering the same costs. The change that will most affect students is the need to bring a personal insurance card to Osco when presenting a written prescription and to settle co-payments directly at the pharmacy when the prescription is filled. Students can also pay for their medication when they receive the prescription and then file independently with their insurance companies.

The policy toward Osco is thus very similar to the ones the pharmacy has with other drugstores in the area.

Students’ option to fill any prescription at the campus pharmacy during operational hours remains unchanged. In these cases, pharmacy charges can still be put on a student account, but individual students are responsible for filing their own insurance claims. Creary said that these different pharmacy options allow students to choose which plan works best for them.

“Students are welcome to use any pharmacy off campus,” Creary said. “Prescriptions can [also] be picked up [at UHC Pharmacy] 24-7 as long as they are called in ahead of time.”

Creary said that graduate students may be more affected by these changes than undergraduates because older students are more likely to have their own medical insurance rather than coverage under their parents’ insurance.

Creary also said it is unlikely an emergency account like the one with Osco will be established again.