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Students Confounded by Sudden Change in Healthcare Provider Service

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Last February, UCSF students received emails about their health coverage that left them stunned, and raised more questions than answers. 

UCSF administration informed students that on June 1, the Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS) primary care clinic would be shut down permanently and UCSF Health would become their designated primary care provider. 

And starting February 1, students with UC Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) would need to initiate the patient registration process with UCSF Health. 

The responsibility of establishing new patient status with UCSF Health is wholly dependent on each individual’s own volition to contact SHCS and UCSF Health’s Patient Navigator Team. Scheduling for, and receiving mental health services will remain as usual. 

The decision to close SHCS’s primary clinic was made “without significant student consultation,” according to the UCSF Student Health website’s FAQ page

The FAQ states that UCSF’s “practice is to engage with students through student body leaders.” However, “We have no option but to move primary care services to UCSF Health.”   

The urgency began in early 2023 when the SHCS interim medical director left, forcing services to temporarily shut down. A new interim medical director stepped in and primary care services were restored through a temporary plan to rotate UCSF Health physicians. Meanwhile, UCSF conducted a thorough review of SHCS, which ultimately led to the primary care clinic’s demise. 

The rushed changes and lack of student consultation may explain why students have been left with many unanswered questions and concerns.

Three student-focused town halls were held at Mission Bay and Parnassus between Feb. 6 and 12 both in-person and on Zoom.  

Students expressed concerns over hidden costs, the range of available healthcare services, and potentially long wait-times for first time patients to become  primary care patients.

“It may take 30 days or more to be established as a primary care patient,” Elina Kostyanovskaya, a member of the Student Health Services Advisory Committee (SHAC), said.

“People were concerned that it would take a while to get a referral from UCSF primary care to see a specialist. You have to pay more out of pocket to see a specialist without referral.”

A new UCSF primary care practice at Mission Bay is also slated to open in August 2024, which according to UCSF Health will expand general primary care capacity. However, it is unclear how the potential gap in primary care will be alleviated in the two to three months after SHCS’s closing and the new building’s completion. 

The UCSF Student Health FAQ page states that the transition from SHCS to UCSF Health is aligned with the beginning of the academic period for physical therapy students, which is “the first cohort to begin the 2024-25 academic year.”

The transferring of student medical records from SHCS to UCSF Health will be handled by  “an expert integration team, including SHCS leadership and UCSF Health,” according to the email to students, which was signed by Catherine R. Lucey, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, Nicquet Blake, PhD, Vice Provost of Student Academic Affairs and Graduate Division Dean, and Josh Adler, Chief Clinical Officer. 

The email adds that the team, “is carefully designing policies and procedures to provide you with convenient access to care and secure the confidentiality of your records.”

As much is left to be desired from the news thus far, it will be important to pay close attention as the transition gets underway on June 1 to ensure that all students get the guidance and advice they need and no one ends up falling through the cracks.