Senators meet remotely

Student senators discuss potential solutions to provide more funding to Watkins Health Services during a full Senate meeting Wednesday.

Student Senate could begin paying deductibles and out-of-pocket costs the student body incurs at Watkins Health Services each year through a student health fee.

Senators, guided by Student Body Vice President Grant Daily, developed several proposed solutions to help make healthcare at Watkins Health Center more affordable. The overall plan, titled “Watkins for All,” is to potentially raise the student health fee from $132 to $200 per student. It would provide Watkins with around $9 million each year.

“Healthcare is to, one effect or another, is not where it should be at the University of Kansas, and students are needing things that are not being provided,” Daily said. 

Because Watkins is funded by Senate through student fees, it should be Senate’s responsibility to address and solve issues students are expressing, Daily said.

During an open discussion at a full Senate meeting Wednesday, senators identified five main problems within the healthcare system on campus:

  • Watkins does not provide sufficient care
  • Watkins doesn't accept KanCare, the state’s medicaid plan
  • Around 2000 students do not have health insurance
  • Insurance costs are high, which especially affects graduate and international students
  • Watkins does not offer enough services

They also listed issues brought to them by students, such as difficulty accessing Watkins’ Counseling and Psychological Services and problems unique to underrepresented communities on campus — including international insurance plans and healthcare access for undocumented students.

“If we’re trying to revisit and create a healthcare service that is helpful, that covers everybody, just taking those populations into consideration would be great,” said Graduate Student Body Vice President Hollie Hall. 

Currently, Watkins’ budget is around $9 million, with $5.5 million coming from Senate’s student health fee. The rest comes from students’ out-of-pocket fees and endowed money.

The increased fee will cover costs for students seeking healthcare at Watkins who do not have sufficient health insurance.

Wesley Cudney, a KU student, asked if there was any consideration in decreasing other fees to make up for the increase in the health fee to avoid “harming the student body” with a higher yearly fee.

Senate agreed to flatten the fee in April in response to financial struggles around the coronavirus pandemic.

Senator Trey Duran said they believe every fee in the current fee package has importance, and Senate can’t provide the services students need without bringing in more revenue. Daily also said although it may increase the student fee, students should be able to access necessary healthcare without a financial barrier.

“When there’s a fee increase, often times it is not necessarily to the benefit of the majority. It is a lot of time to the benefit of the minority,” Daily said. “If we’re able to increase the fee so people who need health services are able to go at a cheaper rate, overall that’s an economic advantage for low income folks.”