ISSS healthcare guide



Written by Julie Misa, Director
International Student and Scholar Services

Thanks to the following people for their comments and critiques: 
Gifty Ako-Adounvo Ph.D., Phillip Barkley MD, Sergio Cristancho, Donna Curtin, Cindy Curtiss, Shaun Edmonds, Ivor Emmanuel Ph.D., David Lawrance MD, Jerry Ogbudimpka Ph.D., and Hiromi Willingham.


The Health Service Fee
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign makes a variety of health care services available to registered students through the McKinley Health Center and the Counseling Center. As a registered student, you pay for these services through the Health Service Fee. The Health Service Fee is assessed to all students registered for more than 5 semester hours. If you are registered for less credit, or do not plan to register during the summer, you may opt to pay the Health Service Fee and thus use McKinley and Counseling Center services. Consult the Admissions and Records website for information and payment deadlines. You may also elect to purchase McKinley coverage for your spouse. Call the McKinley Business Office at 217-333-2719 for more information.

The McKinley Health Center 
Physicians, nurses, health educators, and other health care providers staff the McKinley Health Center. Some of the available services include treatment for illness and minor injuries, physical examinations, immunizations, health education, psychiatric therapy, and gynecological examinations and treatments. McKinley also provides an on-site laboratory, radiology department, and pharmacy. The Sportwell Center, located in the Oasis in the Illini Union (Room 40) provides treatment of sports injuries as well as information and support on good nutrition and fitness. McKinley also provides two Health Resource Centers, one at the McKinley Health Center and one in the Illini Union. There you can receive free health care supplies, non-prescription medications and contraceptives, brochures, and other educational materials. The McKinley Health Education Department has translated brochures on 26 health-related topics into Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and French.

Mental Health Resources at the University of Illinois
There are specialized resources on campus to assist students with mental health concerns and personal problems. The staff of the Counseling Center provide individual and group counseling, workshops, publications, and self-help resources. The services of the Counseling Center are confidential. Some workshops and publications are designed especially for international students. 
The McKinley Mental Health division is staffed by psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. Like the Counseling Center, the McKinley Mental Health staff assist students with a variety of emotional and mental concerns. Additionally, the McKinley Mental Health psychiatrists may prescribe psychiatric medications, if indicated.  Please note that Student Insurance covers psychotherapy/counseling both at McKinley and at mental health providers outside McKinley.

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Why Health Insurance is Important
While the health services on the University of Illinois campus are excellent, they are not all-inclusive. It may be necessary for you to seek care outside of campus, and while dependent spouses of students can have access to McKinley for a fee paid at the outset of the semester (please see this website for more information), dependent children are not eligible to use campus services.  They must seek care from a community provider. The health care delivery system in the United States is highly specialized and technological in nature. This makes health care quite expensive. A simple diagnostic procedure may cost hundreds of dollars; a hospital stay can easily cost thousands of dollars. Because the United States does not have a national health program, each individual must pay for services using personal funds, a previously purchased health insurance plan, or both. A good health insurance program can protect you from financial ruin if you or your dependents require extensive medical care. Furthermore, some providers may refuse to treat you for non-emergency conditions if you are unable to pay in full. Having adequate insurance will help ensure that you receive necessary care in a timely fashion.

Understanding Insurance Terminology
As you evaluate insurance plans, it is helpful to understand some common insurance terminology. Once you choose a plan, it is vital that you read the policy carefully to understand how your insurance company defines these terms and any others.

• Aggregate Maximum or Lifetime Cap is the maximum dollar amount that your insurance will pay for benefits over your lifetime or that of your insured dependents. 
• Claim is a formal request for payment of benefits covered under the insurance program, after service is rendered and expenses are incurred. 
• Covered Service refers to health care benefits that are paid for by your health insurance. 
• Deductible or Co-payment is the portion of your medical bill that you must pay. 
• Exemptions, Exclusions and Limitations are benefits that are not paid for by your insurance company. 
• Out-of-Pocket Maximum is the highest amount that you must pay before the insurance covers 100% of the cost of medical care. 
• Pre-authorization is the approval that you must obtain from your insurance provider prior to treatment for non-emergency care. This is not required for the Student Health Insurance plan. 
• Pre-existing Condition is any medical problem that was already diagnosed or that existed prior to purchasing the health insurance. Many plans exclude pre-existing conditions from coverage. The Student Health Insurance plan does not exclude pre-existing conditions. 
• Premium is the amount that you must pay to purchase insurance coverage. 
• Usual and Customary Fee is the average fee that a health care provider charges for any given service in your geographic area. 

Different Types of Health Insurance Plans 
There are three main types of health insurance plans available in the U.S. 

• Indemnity plan where you pay a premium for the insurance, and a fixed percentage of covered expenses, plus any deductible and co-payment. You may choose your physician, and refer yourself to specialists. The University of Illinois Student Insurance program is one example of an indemnity plan. 
• PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) is similar to an indemnity plan. However, you pay less for care received through one of the plan's preferred physicians or facilities. Each PPO maintains a preferred provider list, which you may review. 
• HMO (Health Maintenance Organization), where you pay a premium for the insurance and a fixed co-payment for covered services. You must select a primary care physician approved by the HMO. All treatment, including that rendered by specialists and at facilities outside the HMO network, must be done on the basis of a referral by your primary care physician and must sometimes be pre-authorized by the HMO. The HMO may refuse to pay for services that were not recommended by your primary care physician. 

Choosing the Right Insurance Plan
As a registered student at the University of Illinois, you are automatically enrolled in the Student Health Insurance plan. You may request an exemption by providing proof of adequate alternate insurance coverage before the deadline listed on the Student Insurance web site. Your insurance must be effective from the first date of coverage of the Student Health Insurance plan. You may elect to enroll any accompanying dependents under the Student Health Insurance, provided that you are also enrolled. Most students find that the Student Health Insurance is satisfactory.

If you decide to purchase outside insurance, you should look for a plan that is both affordable and meets your needs. Cost is just one consideration. You should also understand the features of each plan, including:

• Which treatments are covered, and what is excluded? 
• How much must you pay towards a deductible or copayment? 
• Will the insurance pay for any medical conditions that existed at the time that you purchased the insurance? 
• Is it important that you have access to specialists? 
• In the case of HMO and PPO plans, is there a wide selection of primary care physicians, specialists, and hospitals or clinics affiliated with the insurance? 
• Is there a maximum amount that the insurance will pay for each problem annually or over the lifetime of your coverage? 
• How quickly does the company process claims? 

To select the best insurance, you must consider your situation and that of any dependents. For instance, if you suffer from a chronic health condition, you should avoid purchasing insurance that excludes pre-existing conditions. If you choose an HMO or PPO, find out if there is a specialist approved by the insurance who can provide treatment. Some insurance plans have very low premiums, but have high deductibles, copayments, and many exemptions. These "catastrophic" plans provide little or no benefit for most medical problems. In addition, a catastrophic plan will not meet the requirements to request an exemption from the UIUC Student Health Insurance plan. 

Filing a Claim
Read your insurance brochure to find out how and when claims for benefits should be filed with the insurance company. Also ask your health care provider or hospital if they will file the claim on your behalf. If not, will they require payment for services immediately, or wait for your insurance to first pay the portion of your bill as provided under your plan? Be prepared to show your insurance card to your health care provider at the time of service. If you purchase insurance from a source other than the UIUC Student Health Insurance or an HMO, ask the company to give you a claim form when you buy the insurance. Keep copies of all bills and papers related to claims for at least one year.

Using Insurance Wisely 
Once you select your health insurance, it is important to use it wisely. As a student at the UIUC, you should use the McKinley Health Center and the Counseling Center whenever you can. Because the Health Service Fee that you pay along with your tuition bill covers most services, you usually do not make any additional payment. Use the emergency room (ER) at Carle or Provena Covenant hospitals only in the case of a true emergency. Call McKinley Dial-A-Nurse if you are not certain whether you should go to the ER or wait to see a doctor the next day. Stay healthy. Eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest, exercise, and have an annual physical examination. 
Take the time to read your insurance policy carefully before you need to use it. Your insurance company may refuse payment if you receive treatment for an excludable condition, or if you do not follow insurance protocol for seeking treatment. Ask your health care provider for a cost estimate for any treatment you might receive, especially prior to surgery or hospitalization. Then consult with your insurance company about the coverage you might expect. By taking these measures, you can keep your health care costs down. 

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Types of Providers
As a student, you should use one of the McKinley doctors or nurse practitioners as your primary health care provider. Sometimes, however, you might find it necessary to seek medical care outside campus. You should also choose a community health care provider for your dependents. There are different types of physicians and other providers from which to select. Here are some of the most common:

• Family practitioner can provide general care to any member of your family. 
• Internist can also serve as a general doctor for adults. 
• Obstetrician/gynecologist cares for women during pregnancy, and specializes in the treatment of women's health concerns. Those with a low-risk pregnancy may also seek care from a nurse midwife. 
• Pediatrician takes care of children from infancy through adolescence. 
• Psychiatrists and psychologists treat psychological problems through counseling and therapy, but a psychiatrist can prescribe medication and treat hospitalized patients. 
• Nurse practitioners and physician's assistants work under a physician's supervision and can diagnose and treat many common medical problems. They also tend to spend more time with each patient, and focus on providing educational information. 

Doctors in the community work in a variety of settings. Some have a private practice, where they work in their own office. Other doctors work in a group practice or clinic together with other physicians. If you choose a doctor in private practice, find out who will provide care when the doctor is not available. Doctors in a group or clinic setting provide care for each other's patients when the primary doctor is not available. They may also rotate responsibility for evening and weekend calls. A doctor in private practice generally handles all calls during evenings and weekends. Every doctor should be affiliated with a hospital, if one of his or her patients require hospital care. There are two hospitals in Urbana, Presence Covenant Medical Center and Carle. Both provide a wide range of services.

Choosing a Provider
There are many factors to take into account when choosing a health care provider. First, if you have your insurance through an HMO or PPO, you should choose a doctor who participates in your insurance plan. Ask your insurance company for a list. Next, ask several people which doctor they use and why. Call each potential doctor's office and find out if the doctor is accepting new patients. Some people like to schedule a meeting to talk to their prospective doctor. During such a meeting, you might ask about the doctor's hospital affiliation, criteria for handling emergencies and problems outside of office hours, and billing procedures. The initial meeting is also a good time to find out if you feel comfortable with the doctor's personality and philosophy. Once you select a doctor, you should also schedule an appointment for a physical examination. That will give your doctor a chance to gather important information about your health. You can later change physicians, should the need arise. It is far better, however, to choose your doctor carefully, and see that doctor for your health care needs.

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The majority of your health care interactions will take place in your doctor's office, as doctors do not visit people's homes to care for them. Additionally, you should not go to the hospital for care without a referral from your physician, unless you have a true medical emergency. You may need to schedule appointments for physical examinations for yourself or your dependents several weeks in advance. Most doctors will see you the same day if you are ill or injured, though it is probably best to call the doctor's office early in the morning in such cases. 

The Initial Visit
You will likely be asked to arrive early for your first appointment with the doctor. This allows the staff to gather important information from you. Be sure to take your health insurance card for the first visit (though this is not necessary if you have an appointment at the McKinley Health Center). You may also be asked to complete a written Medical History form. In order to complete the Medical History form, you must provide detailed medical information about yourself and your close relatives. Such information includes any incidents of injury or illness, surgeries, and chronic health conditions. Take a good dictionary with you if English is not your primary language. Even those who are relatively fluent in English may find that they do not know the specific words to describe medical conditions. Take copies of any pertinent medical records with you as well. These will be helpful to your doctor. 

It is customary for a nurse to gather information from you before you see the doctor. Be prepared to discuss the purpose of your visit, and describe any symptoms you have to the nurse. The nurse may also take your weight, temperature, and blood pressure before you see the doctor. 

The Role of the Physician
As is the case anywhere in the world, it is the doctor's job to diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries. However, the way that the doctor goes about this job in the United States might be quite different from what you are used to in your home country. Physicians in the U.S. tend to focus on the objective physiological processes of disease. They believe that each illness is characterized by a particular set of physical symptoms, and that these symptoms must be considered together in order to diagnose the disease and recommend a course of treatment. Most doctors spend very little time on social formalities, preferring instead to ask a series of questions designed to yield information about your medical concerns. The doctor may also ask that laboratory tests be performed to aid in the diagnosis of an illness. Sometimes the doctor may conduct a physical examination, though it may be brief and focused on one specific part of your body. It may seem like the doctor does not spend enough time with you. Even so, the doctor will take the necessary time to diagnose and assist in the treatment of a medical problem. 

Building a Good Doctor/Patient Relationship
What are some of the things that you can do to build a constructive relationship with the doctor of your choice? First and foremost, try to suspend any negative judgments about your doctor based on comparisons to the way that doctors behave in your home country. If you understand the bias that doctors here have towards diagnosis based on physical symptoms, you will be able to work more effectively with the doctor. Write down any symptoms, concerns, and questions that you have and take them with you when you see the doctor. Likewise, make notes of what your doctor says, especially in regard to your diagnosis and recommended course of treatment. Be sure to answer your doctor's questions fully and honestly. Any information that you share will be held in strict confidence. Ask questions of your doctor so that you fully understand your situation and the recommended course of treatment. Inform your doctor of any medications you currently take, including herbal or other homeopathic remedies. In the United States, many drugs can only be dispensed based on a written prescription from a doctor. If your doctor prescribes any medication for you, be sure to take it exactly as indicated, even if you begin to feel better.

Understand that medical terminology is very specialized. If you have difficulties with English, you may wish to take a fellow speaker of your language with you to the doctor's office. That person can help you to translate difficult words or concepts. You might also wish to take a dictionary. If you do not understand what is being said, ask for clarification. It is important that you fully comprehend all information given to you by your health care provider.

It is common practice for patients to ask for a second opinion if a situation is complicated, or if the doctor recommends surgery. Ask your doctor to give you the names of physicians for second opinions. Check your insurance policy to see whether or not it provides coverage for second opinions.

If you do not feel comfortable with your doctor, you may choose another. Some insurance companies require that you notify them of any change in primary care provider. Be sure to do so. Ask your original doctor about transferring your medical records to the new doctor. 

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Finding a Provider

Dental and vision care services are not available at the McKinley Health Center. You can find a list of providers in the Yellow Pages of the community telephone directory under Dentists and Optometrists or Opticians. 

Dental for Graduate Assistants and Fellows
The University of Illinois provides dental insurance for graduate assistants and fellows receiving tuition waivers. Eligible students are enrolled automatically in the dental insurance program when appointment papers are completed. Graduate students not receiving automatic coverage may elect to purchase dental insurance through the University of Illinois. In addition, graduate students may purchase coverage for their spouse and children, provided that the student is also insured. 

Other Insurance Options
You may also purchase dental insurance from outside the University of Illinois. As is the case with medical insurance, dental insurance programs only pay for a portion of your care. It is important to read your policy brochure for information on coverage, limitations, and exclusions. Even with insurance coverage, some students find that it is more cost effective to take care of routine dental procedures during visits to their home country. This may be a good idea if you travel home frequently. As an alternative, Parkland College's Dental Hygiene Clinic offers low cost cleaning and fluoride treatments. Call 217-351-2221 to make an appointment. 

Vision Care
The University of Illinois also provides some vision care benefits to graduate assistants and fellows with tuition waivers through the EyeMed Vision Plan. Like the Delta Dental plan, eligible graduate students automatically receive this benefit once appointment papers are completed. All other graduate students may elect to purchase coverage, and dependents may also be added to the plan. 

Comparison Shopping
The cost of vision and dental services varies from provider to provider. Call several to ask about typical charges. Both Delta Dental Insurance and the EyeMed Vision Plan are most cost effective if you visit a participating provider. Ask the Student Insurance office for a list of participating dentists and opticians.

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  • Centerpoint Counseling and Personal Development Services, 1801 Fox Dr., C., 217-398-8080. Counseling and personal development
  • Christie Clinic, 101 W. University, U., 217-366-1200. 
  • Counseling Center, 212 Student Services Building, 610 E. John, C., 217-333-3704. Counseling and other mental health concerns
  • McKinley Health Center, 1109 S. Lincoln, U.   
       o General information and to schedule an appointment 217-333-2700. 
       o Dial-A-Nurse 217-333-2700. 24-hour a day answer to questions about illness, injury, and other health concerns. For registered students only. 
       o Health Education 217-333-2714. Information on staying healthy, translated health materials. 
  • Special Populations webpage
  • International Student and Scholar Services, 400 Student Services Building, 610 E. John, C., 217-333-1303.General information and assistance for international students, scholars, faculty and staff.
  • Planned Parenthood, 302 E. Stoughton, C., 217-359-8022. Family planning services and educational programs.
  • Presence Covenant Hospital, 1400 W. Park, U., 217-337-2000.
  • Student Insurance Office, Illini Union Bookstore Building, 4th Floor, 807 S. Wright, C., 217-333-0165.Information and questions regarding the Student Health Insurance plan. 


Last updated 5/2014

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