ASUW organized a town hall Thursday to hear student input on upcoming changes for Hall Health Center.
David Anderson, executive director of the Health Sciences Administration, and Jeremy Moon, chair of Services and Activities Fee (SAF) Committee, gave an overview of the situation and potential changes and answered questions and addressed concerns from students.
“Over time, Hall Health’s budget situation has been slowly going downhill,” Anderson said. This is due to several factors including increasing health care costs, the SAF’s inability to increase funding contributions, and an increasing proportion of patients on Medicaid.
Currently, the SAF provides about $6.6 million or 42% of the Hall Health budget. This comes out of the almost $18 million per year — paid for by a $141 fee per student per quarter — that the SAF Committee allocates to fund critical programs on campus. However, the SAF can only raise the fee by about 4% each year per state law.
“As everyone’s needs increase, we are an increasingly limited resource financially,” Moon said. This is prompting the consideration of a separate, additional student health fee.
The Hall Health task force was charged by the provost, Mark Richards, to develop recommendations to put the center on a more sustainable foundation. In developing these recommendations, the task force will look at peer institution comparisons, reevaluate organizational issues, reconsider the scope of services, and potentially redesign the financial model.
The recommendations will ultimately be delivered to senior leadership who will then reach out to stakeholders, including students, to gather thoughts and comments. These recommendations aim to help senior leadership push the discussion forward and define what changes are needed.
In regard to organizational issues, there are two current options. Hall Health can continue to report to the Health Sciences Administration, or pursue a hybrid model where the center would still report to Health Science Administration but align more operationally with UW Medicine.
As for scope options, Hall Health can either maintain, increase, or decrease services, taking into account the determined need for these services and return on investment for students. All these scenarios bring with them cost issues.
“We know Hall Health is a critical service that supports students and non-students,” Anderson said. “How do we manage to put something in place that’s going to have legs, that’s going to keep Hall Health doing its mission for the long term and still take into account all of these factors that are coming to the front right now?”
Several students expressed concerns including issues such as insurance acceptance, overall assistance and accessibility, and the potential separate health fee.
Giuliana Conti, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, voiced her hope that through these recommendations, greater consideration will be given to the services students feel are most valuable.
“Personally, I have found that this entity has made a considerable difference in my well-being on campus,” Conti said. “I am hopeful that this will translate into something that allows Hall Health to grow rather [than] simply manage ways for it to continue to exist.”
One student expressed that these issues require holistic re-evaluation and restructuring rather than just increased funding. Another student talked about her experience with healthcare at the UW as a first-generation student, hoping that the changes made will reflect the unique situations of individuals.
The recommendations are intended to be completed at the end of February, but Anderson believes it will take longer in order to have complete and appropriate discussions.
“Part of the reason that we are having this feedback form and the town hall is to take this feedback to ensure … the issues, the concerns, and the priorities that students have are at the epicenter of these conversations,” ASUW President Kelty Pierce said to wrap up the meeting.
Reach reporter Andrew Ronstadt at firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @AndrewRonstadt
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