UAF Student Health and Counseling Center

Say "Ahh" column writted by Donna M. Patrick, ANP

Donna answers the questions students frequently have in regards to medical situations, this article can also be found in the weekly publication of the "Sun Star."

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Affordable Care Act - Do you need Insurance?

Do I really need health insurance?

Sept. 13, 2013

Say Ahh, by Donna Patrick, ANP

Q:   I’m a young, healthy college student.   Do you really think I need health insurance?

A: Yes.

  1. You never know when you might get sick or hurt.   We all think these things will never happen to us but they do. At your age accidents seem to be the main culprit.   If you don’t have insurance and you become injured you’ll have to pay the full cost for treatment. Even common illnesses and injuries, like a broken bone, can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars to treat without insurance. Large medical bills could lead to debt or even bankruptcy and affect your financial future.   More importantly you may have to decline certain recommended treatments because of inability to pay which may cause future complications such as disability and chronic pain.
  2.   If you purchase health insurance, you will have free access to preventive care. Examples of “ preventive services ” covered under health care reform include: immunizations, well-woman visits, contraception, depression screenings, alcohol misuse screenings, and HIV and STD screenings and counseling. If you have health insurance, you won’t have to pay anything out-of-pocket for these services when you get them from a health care provider (Nurse Practitioner, Medical Doctor or Physician Assistant) in your insurer’s network.
  3. Starting in 2014, you must have health insurance or pay a fine. The penalty will start low, at $95 or 1% of your yearly income, whichever is greater, in 2014, but will increase, to $695 or 2.5% of your income by 2016. People who can’t find affordable coverage or who meet certain criteria will not have to pay this penalty.

Q: My current health insurance plan won’t pay for certain tests or procedures. Will this change under the new law?

A: Beginning in January all individual health insurance packages (ones you buy yourself as opposed to getting through your job) must offer a comprehensive package of items and services, known as “essential health benefits.” As noted in last week’s column, some of these essential health benefits will include: emergency services; hospitalization; mental health and substance misuse services; prescription drugs; preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management.

Q: What was that web site I can go on to sign up for affordable health insurance?


Affordable Care Act

Sept. 6, 2013

Say Ahh by Donna Patrick, ANP

Q: What is the Affordable Care Act?

A: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPAFA) often shortened to Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare” was instituted to ensure more people have access to quality, affordable health care and   health insurance.

A big milestone of the ACA happens in 2014, when individuals will be required to have health insurance or incur penalties. Open enrollment for health insurance (for those who do not currently have a plan that meets minimum requirements and for those who are considering a change) begins next month. Individuals will be able to choose between different insurance carriers and levels of coverage in order to select a plan that best suits them.   All plans will have a minimum of ten essential benefits, including outpatient care, inpatient care, emergency care, and prescription drug coverage. Those with incomes up to four times the national poverty level will qualify for government subsidies to help pay premiums.

Q: I am 22 years old. Do I still need to sign up?

A: If your parents have medical insurance you are covered under their plan until age 26. If your parents do not have coverage, you will have to sign up for your own coverage.

Q: When can I sign up?

A:   Starting this October 1st you can sign up for health insurance under the ACA. If you already have health insurance, such as through your job, you may not need to sign up. But, you must have a certain amount of health insurance. Otherwise you risk being fined. This fine will get bigger over the next few years. The last day to sign up for coverage in 2014 is March 31st.

Q: What will my options be?

A: You will be able to pick from plans that have different premiums, copays, deductibles, and coverage. Different plans will work with different providers. Make sure your provider is “in network” if you want to keep seeing him or her. Also, check the plan to make sure your medicines will be covered.

Q: How do I sign up?

A: Go to learn about plans and to sign up for a plan beginning October 1st . Or, you can call 800-318-2596 . These resources can also help you find out if you can get financial help with your plan or a tax credit. You may get lower costs if you don’t smoke and if you try to keep a healthy weight.

Q: Can I be turned down by a plan?

A: You can’t be turned away or charged more because of a condition you already have. You can’t be charged more for a plan if you’re a woman. There are no lifetime or yearly spending limits on your care.

Q: What kind of benefits will I get?

A: All plans will at least cover the following:

·          Outpatient care

·          Emergency services

·          Hospital care

·          Maternity and newborn care

·          Mental health and substance abuse care

·          Rehabilitation

·          Labwork

·          Prescription medicines

·          Wellness services

·          Pediatric care

Plans will also give you some services that prevent illness for free. You will not be charged a copay or deductible for these. Birth control that requires a prescription will also be available for free. Here are some of the free services:

·          Blood pressure screening

·          Cholesterol screening

·          Colorectal cancer screening

·          Depression screening

·          Diabetes screening

·          Diet counseling

·          HIV screening

·          Vaccines for adults

·          Tobacco use screening

·          Mammograms for women

·          Cervical cancer screening for women

·          Osteoporosis screening for women


Q: How do I know if I have anxiety?

A: It is normal to feel stressed out or nervous once in a while especially if you are a student! But being extremely anxious or worried on most days for 6 months or longer is not normal. This is called “generalized anxiety disorder.” Generalized anxiety can make it hard to do normal everyday things.

Q: What are the symptoms of anxiety?

A:   People with extreme or severe anxiety feel very worried or "on edge” and stressed out much of the time. They are often very forgetful and usually have some amount of insomnia. They can also experience physical symptoms such as chest “tightness”, tense muscles, profound fatigue, and stomach aches.

Q: Should I see someone about it?

A:  See your doctor, nurse practitioner, PA or counselor if you:

·         Are more anxious than you think is normal.

·         Get overly anxious about things that other people handle more easily.


They will ask you questions or ask you to fill out a form to “measure” your level of anxiety.

Q: Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better?

A:  Yes.

·         Exercise can help many people feel less anxious. A brisk walk or slow jog on the UAF trails can be enormously helpful.   We have a beautiful, well maintained trail system which meanders through the forest and fields and around the lakes.   If it becomes too cold outdoors the student rec center has a lot of fun aerobic activities available to get involved with.

·         Join a Yoga class which focuses on breathing techniques at the SRC or in town.   Heart Stream Yoga Studio is close by and may offer discounts to UAF students.

·         Meditation is scientifically known to reduce symptoms of anxiety.

·         Cut down on or stop drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages such as pop and energy drinks. Caffeine can make anxiety much worse.

·         Try to cut back on the amount of refined sugars and junk foods you eat.

·         Take a look at any over the counter medicines you may be taking.   Some, such as Sudafed, can cause jitteriness.

Q: How is anxiety treated?

A:  Treatments include:

·         “Talk” therapy – Talk therapy involves meeting with a counselor to talk about your feelings, relationships, and worries. This can help you figure out new ways of thinking about your situation so that you feel less anxious. In counseling you might also learn new skills to reduce anxiety such as slow, deep breathing techniques.

·         Medicines – Medicines used to treat depression can relieve anxiety too, even in people who are not depressed. Your doctor, nurse practitioner or PA can help you decide which medicines are best for your situation.

Over the years we have seen many, many students at the health center for anxiety both on the medical side and the counseling side. So try not to feel embarrassed if you feel you might benefit from getting treatment for anxiety. It is an extremely common affliction of students. It affects all kinds of people.

Keep in mind that it might take a little while to find the right treatment. People respond in different ways to medicines and therapy, so you might need to try a few different approaches before you find the one that helps you most. The key is to not give up.

Q: Is this something that will go away?

A:  People who struggle with anxiety often have to deal with some anxiety for the rest of their life. For some, anxiety comes and goes, but gets worse during stressful times. Fortunately, most people find effective treatments or ways to deal with their anxiety.

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