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Coming Back to Campus: Top Student Health and Wellness Concerns for the 2021 School Year

Insights | Coming Back to Campus: Top Student Health and Wellness Concerns for the 2021 School Year
Campus Health July 2021

Author: Chris Mihin, CBC, Vice President and Managing Principal, HORAN Campus Health Solutions

This year, student health and wellness is on peoples’ minds more than ever. The recent COVID-19 pandemic widely altered operations and impacted college and university students and staff. Yet, COVID-19 isn’t students’ only concern this coming school year. According to Anthem Student Health Plan research, students listed “a good health insurance company website," "an easy way to find local providers” and “mental health services” among their top priorities in choosing a Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP).

With close to 75% of students shopping for a plan for the first time on their own, you’ll need to provide more guidance to help keep your campus community covered. In fact, 62% of students name you – their college or university – as who they’ll look to for help understanding their insurance. Do you understand what they need?

1.    Mental Health Coverage and Services

A recent Penn State report discovered that, over five years, student utilization of the counseling center increased by 10% despite enrollment only increasing by 5%.  This shows a dramatic increase in the use of counseling services, an issue that has skyrocketed since 2020: according to Anthem Student Health Plan research, 65% of students said they feel they need mental health coverage this year.

However, while demand for mental health services is rising, coverage under SHIPs is not. To bridge the gap, investigate standalone options for your students. In some cases, you can leverage recent CARES Act funds to expand mental health access on and near campus. Connect with local counselors and counseling services to join your SHIP network, especially if your campus is in a remote area. And look into remote counseling options to expand accessibility. Above all, ensure your students understand their options regarding mental health coverage and how to access care.

2.    COVID-19’s Impact and Related Issues

The coronavirus pandemic is still top of mind for many students, primarily around issues related to vaccinations and how an institution would handle a potential on-campus outbreak. Common concerns include:

  • Is vaccination required to attend classes on-campus? If so, how will unvaccinated individuals attend classes?
  • Will there be COVID-19 testing requirements for non-vaccinated students? For vaccinated students?
  • Is there a plan for hybrid learning? Will that affect tuition (in-person vs. virtual student costs)?
  • What happens if a student gets COVID-19? Do they need to quarantine or leave campus?
  • What vaccines are accepted for international students?

This last question around international student vaccinations is complex. As of early June, eight vaccines, including Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). Many U.S. institutions are only accepting one of these eight when requiring vaccinations on campus. This leads to additional questions like: 

  • Will students who have a non-WHO-approved vaccine be allowed on campus?
  • If so, will there be regular COVID-19 testing or masking requirements?
  • If not, will students be required to get re-vaccinated if they already received a non-WHO-approved vaccine?

Time is of the essence to decide upon and communicate your institution’s stance on international students and COVID-19 vaccination. 

3.    Ease of Access and Understanding Care

Anthem Student Health Plan research found customer service was the #1 priority for students evaluating what they would call a “good SHIP.” Other priorities included “enrollment or waiver app functions” and “integration with the student health center or provider records.” 

Students are demanding their SHIP have the same ease of access and usability they get elsewhere. In the age of Amazon, Lyft and Grubhub, students expect to know what they’re getting, receive real-time updates on their services and have an easy-to-access log of all the services they’ve received, all on one user-friendly website and app. 

Getting Your Students the Health and Wellness Coverage they Need

How can you meet the emerging health needs of your students? There are five points you can hit:

  1. Make SHIP Sign Up Easy. “Easy sign up” was the most popular reason students decided on their SHIP, according to Anthem Student Health plan research.
  2. Provide Options. Students told Anthem Student Health research they wanted a PPO network, so they had clear choices of where to go for coverage. But, you also need out-of-network access for those who want to go to their home provider for certain care. Give your students a choice in what coverage they want and need. 
  3. Help Them Understand Coverage. As mentioned at the top, many students are going about gaining and using coverage for the first time. Provide them with knowledge portals and other resource libraries so they can feel confident in their health decisions. 
  4. Provide Mental Health Resources. This is the number one issue for most students in 2021. Look into how you can expand access and increase understanding of how students can access coverage. 
  5. Make It Affordable. In the end, cost matters to students. They’re on tight budgets and if your SHIP isn’t in an acceptable range, they’ll move to other coverage or no coverage at all. Work with your SHIP consultant to manage costs and develop ways to make health care affordable to all students. 

The experts at HORAN Campus Health Solutions are here to help you hit all the marks when it comes to keeping your campus healthy and safe. Our elite status with the most well-known providers and connections with the latest in healthcare innovations means we have the resources you need to bring the best, most affordable coverage to your students.

Let us quickly guide you to the best options for your unique campus community: fill out a simple contact form or contact Chris Mihin, Vice President and Managing Principal, HORAN Campus Health Solutions, at ChrisM@horanassoc.com or 513.702.3707 to find out more.