Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How my seminary sent me to Planned Parenthood

I'm causing trouble again, I know. But this blog has caused things to happen in the past, so here's hoping.

As much as I want to have a baby (and these days, I really do), I know that we are not in a financial situation to handle it right now. Nor does our new apartment offer any conceivable space for said infant. So it's something we'll be waiting on. But the primary reason we're waiting is the insurance plan I get through Fuller is only for illness and injury, not designed for pregnancy, so I don't want to drain on the plan. Also we'd pay for most of the pregnancy, and at my age, I wouldn't want to deny myself tests or necessities because I don't feel we can afford it. For instance, the plan offers one ultrasound only and doesn't cover most testing. I just don't really want to do bare-bones prenatal care, at least not my first time around.

This is the only insurance plan we could afford, so I'm stuck with it for another year. Which means no baby for at least a year. But a new problem has arisen.

I'm out of birth control. And the prescription I had from my old insurance (an HMO, so I can't go back there) has run out. I need a new prescription.

Since my insurance plan is not for preventive medicine, it doesn't cover doctor visits that are not related to a specific illness or injury (they don't even count towards my deductible). Since "need a new birth control prescription" is not illness/injury, I couldn't get the insurance to pay for the visit. Which seemed OK, until I learned that the visit costs $150-300. Ouch! You mean I have to pay $300 (not even towards my deductible!) just to have the guy write me a prescription??

That seems to be the case. Ugh. I can't afford the doctor visit. I can afford the pills, no problem, and don't mind paying for them, and they are covered at 50% by our insurance. Great. But how am I supposed to get the pills?? Can anybody tell me that?

See, the insurance plan (Nationwide) is set up for students, but most campuses (including J's - he has it too) have their own clinic. So you're supposed to do all your preventive stuff at the campus clinic, and only use the insurance for big stuff and emergencies. Only Fuller isn't big enough to have a clinic. I wonder if we could do some kind of exchange with another campus? Or if we could have a parish nurse for a local church come by once a week? (my dad's church had a parish nurse, it was a great thing) I mean, the person would be overrun, but it would just be for colds and flu and birth control, little things that are not worth a $300 doctor visit!

Anyway, my next idea is to just go visit the Planned Parenthood. I know they do low-cost women's health stuff (absolutely no "well-woman" care is covered by the seminary's plan, which makes the feminist in me really itchy), and their main thing is helping women get birth control. It's deeply ironic, but it's all I know to do.

Before I go to that extreme, I've called Fuller and alerted them to the fact that I've been driven into the very mouth of Satan by their ridiculous insurance plan. We'll see if dropping the name "Planned Parenthood" wakes anybody up over there. I'm not the only student with this issue. We're trying to save everybody money by not having babies. But they're making it really difficult.

I'll keep you posted on what happens.

Or if you're a doctor and want to write me a year's worth of Zovia, I'd be much obliged. :)


zorra said...

Oh my gosh. Just go. Get your pills, and a well-woman exam while you're at it.
I remember those days--twenty years ago, but Fuller's insurance was just as pitiful then.

Stasi said...

Just go to PP? Or to the $300 doctor?

zorra said...

To Planned Parenthood, I meant.

Unknown said...

What a situation. It seems to me you need to go to Planeed Parenthood if Fuller doesn't have a physician or PA or Nurse Practioner for you to use. Or see if one of the churches has some kind of clinic you can use. But if you don't have the money don't go to the Doctor. That is a whole lot higher there than here.

Anonymous said...

In my past life...I have gone to PP for some for a procedure I'm not proud of. Up until this past year Eric and I never had Health Insurance. So, I ended up going to PP for BC for a small donation. If you decide to go to PP I would reccomend going to the Burbank clinic...it's nicer and the people were friendly.

Edette said...

Ya just go to PP and don't even worry about it! Great idea to give Fuller a heads up - I should have done that myself. And thanks for braving such a post! : )

Stasi said...

Update from Fuller: they gave me a couple silly suggestions (call the insurance company and ask - like I don't know what they would say) and then the guy broke down and said that I should probably just go to "the clinic". So it's official - I'm sent to Planned Parenthood!

I tried calling other women's health places but they don't do birth control - I think they are mostly Catholic. So our choices are basically Planned Parenthood or a place that wants to talk you out of an abortion (I don't want to get pregnant in the first place!). That's just great.

I'm startin to realize why PP is so very important. And I'm a little pissed off that we keep it out of so many communities and other places of the world that need it. No, I'm not a fan of abortion, but for crying out loud, if you can't get BC anywhere else, then they are doing a very necessary service!!

Anonymous said...

I guess not much has changed since the '70's, when Planned Parenthood was the only good choice for young women.

My college's student clinic--and later private OB-GYN practitioners-- felt very invasive of one's privacy and autonomy with their pushy advice and limited care.

I always received good information and treatment from PP nurse-practitioners--and my blood pressure always measured 20 points lower.

Anonymous said...

There's another option ...

Take J on a day trip to Tijuana (or Mexicali) and pick up a year's supply of Zovia at a pharmacia. The Mexican government subsidizes BCPs, you'll pay less than $20 for a year's supply, no 'scrip needed.

OTOH, you can get the well-woman checkup at PP, which is also a good idea.

Anonymous said...

i like fuller, its been a good place for me but these are the types of things that the administration is totally oblivious of or hope by ignoring them the students and their families will simply "get by some how" - housing is another big issue piece of that puzzle. i've spoken to some folks at fuller about similar insurance questions as well and haven't gotten very far either. my suggestion would be to escalate things if you've got the time and energy - its an issue that someone needs to be thinking about and i honestly think that there isn't a solution for folks like you not because one doesn't exist but simply because no one has sat down to figure it out. so if you go the escalation route here's my suggestion, don't waste your time talking to the student health insurance office: call Ruth Vuong directly, 584-5437, call Lingenfelter directly, 584-5205, call Mouw's office directly, 584-5211 and type up a quick letter explaining your situation and send it to as many of the trustees as you can find easy addresses for (you can find a list of trustees here - be sure to put something on the letter, in the return address or something that identifies you as a Fuller student) - I would especially focus on the female board members - oh, and be sure to mention to Ruth, Sherwood and Mouw that you have or will be sending a letter to the trustees. That should at least get you a better hearing and the ears of the right people.

Anonymous said...

I will post anonymously here for the moment, if anyone out there takes this on, Wendy in Mouw's office can get you the addresses for all the Board members. That is a great idea!

Anonymous said...

i'll chip in for postage - let me know which rock on campus to leave the stamps under!

Anonymous said...

planned parenthood SHOULD be about birth control (not only abortion) and so it's GREAT you go there, it's what it's really there for ...

we forget that

Anonymous said...

i don't think i would call the fuller health care situation sexist in any fuller specific type of way, although i suppose you could call it that in the manner that all health care/insurance programs seemed to be geared towards male care. but believe me there are plenty of male specific care needs that aren't covered under the insurance either. the situation at fuller is more that they are in the unenviable position of trying to provide group coverage to a group of students that isn't quite big enough to meet the threshold of being able to provide the benefits of group care that larger schools/busineses are able to offer by virtue of their larger number of enrollees. thus, one or two pregnancies in the student body is enough to impact the cost of the entire program for everyone where as larger institutions are able to absorb the cost across their larger number of enrollees without having to take steps such as exempting certain treatments or raising costs. all that to say that what fuller has is bad coverage at a bad price because they have no leverage. i think this is the way the story goes, but at some point recently fuller was under an umbrella program with several other institutions in the area (APU and Biola) maybe and this allowed them greater leverage to offer better care and rates. however as anyone who has been paying attention over the last couple of years knows the healthcare system has gone to pieces and somehow that relationship fell apart with it . . . or something like that.

Sarah said...

A related situation at another school:

I have a friend who is a young single mother who had her baby during her undergrad years at UC Santa Barbara. To have her student health insurance cover the labor and delivery of the baby, she had to be actively enrolled in classes at the time of the birth. This makes no sense for so many reasons. When she pushed the college on the issue, they really just shrugged and said they don't really expect their undergrads to have babies. She laughed kind of incredulously at how naive this was, since they are pointedly aware of the need for contraception and std education (i.e. they know undergrads are having lots of sex). The health official said that yes, they expect pregnancies, but they don't expect deliveries of babies. My friend was confused until the official gave her the form for abortion. Unbelievable what the school will pay for and what it won't.

Stasi said...

Wow. Scary story. I'm pretty sure Fuller wouldn't be thrilled if I went the abortion route.

But regarding the sexism question, I think that may have been part of the issue once upon a time, but nowadays, the contract is renegotiated yearly so I can't imagine they would still be negotiating thinking that the seminary is mostly male when I think it's about half and half these days.

At least I would like to think that these issues are thought about.

At least I've put it before the student health insurance office (I called today with my suggestions of a visiting campus nurse or an agreement to be able to visit another school's clinic). I don't have time to mount the campaign suggested, although I think it's probably a worthy cause.

I will probably bring it up with Ruth Vuong next time I see her. And I know Dr. Mouw reads this blog.

JTB said...

It might also be helpful to point to other seminaries who don't leave this gap in coverage. I've never had an issue at PTS with coverage of my yearly exam and supply of pills. Nor with pregancy coverage and birth for that matter.


Anonymous said...

definitely good to see that there are seminaries that are intentional about providing the care. however its also worth noting that comparing fuller and princeton is a bit like apples and oranges. fuller simply has no where close to the financial resources that princeton has at its disposal to provide these types of services to their students. i guarantee fuller is no less desirous of being able to offer health insurance that meets those needs but financially it just isn't possible - no school wants to offer bad health care plans, its just not good for enrollment, but not every school is a princeton or large state school that has the resources to do so. thus in a case like fuller it would have to be something that somebody on the board or upper administrative level decides to champion and seek out the resources and solution for because it just can't happen otherwise.

Moktor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ashleigh B said...

Hi, I'm the current VP for Women & Gender on Fuller's All-Seminary Council, and I'd love to hear if anything more happened after the last time you posted here. I'm currently trying to investigate more about our coverage and how Fuller can better serve women in particular--as I've had to shell out $350 for really basic stuff like PAP smears and appointments to get/switch birth control in the past year.

Did you have more than one PPO option while you were here? (They did last year but this year only have one cheap/imo bad plan.)

Did you have the option of an HMO here?

How did the administrators/others you talked to respond to your concern?

Stasi said...

Ashleigh & Alena,

Thanks for posting. I'm glad you found the blog. You'll see that it's pretty much defunct at this point; after having my daughter and graduating from seminary I just didn't have time or much to write about anymore.

Ashleigh, I hope you check back, I'll answer your ??'s but please feel free to email me (email's on my profile page).

I believe yes, there was more than one PPO plan, but only one that was realistically affordable (and it was catastrophe insurance). No HMO when I was there; I believe they hooked up w/Kaiser the year after I finished.

I got some sympathy from administration but not many answers. At Kaiser (where I always elect to have insurance when I have a choice) this wouldn't have been a problem. So just adding them sort of solved the problem, in a way.

Incidentally, I went back to PP this year, to get a pregnancy test confirmed so I could sign up for Medicaid. God bless them.