School has started for lots of you, and we know you have tons on your mind: the textbooks, the roommate, the cafeteria food, the laundry room. Sure, Alexa helps, but can it tell you what birth control options are available at the school health center? Probably not, so let’s cover some of the basics. Here are four things you’ll want to find out as soon as you get to campus.
What health care services does my school offer?
Most universities will post the health care services offered on their website. The site may also list the health center hours, staff, pharmacy information, and specific health programs for students. Lots of people ignore this stuff until they get sick, but some university health centers do offer preventive care like annual exams, STI testing, and cancer screenings.
Will the health center at my school accept my insurance?
Many schools require students to have health insurance. Students can be covered by their parents’ insurance or can have private insurance through an employer or the Affordable Care Act. Those who don’t have insurance may be eligible for a university student health insurance plan, and some schools automatically opt-in students who don’t have another option.
If you have health insurance, whether a private plan or a student plan, almost all services at the school clinic will be covered. A co-pay or a deductible may still apply. If you have a student plan and are seeking health care off campus, check with the university to see what’s covered and what costs you may be responsible for.
Can I get birth control at my school’s health center?
Some universities may not provide some or all methods of birth control. For example, if you have a prescription for the Depo Shot, some schools may not refill your prescription. If you have a prescription for the birth control pills, it may be refilled if it was prescribed for a condition like acne or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). If you’re concerned you won’t be able to access your preferred method, talk to your doctor before you move in or find an off-campus health center like Planned Parenthood to help you.
How accessible are condoms and emergency contraception?
Some schools have Plan B vending machines, making it easy for students to access emergency contraception when needed. Other colleges may sell condoms and the morning-after pill at the school bookstore, at the school health center, and/or have student organizations who pass them out to students. Whatever the case may be for your school, the time to figure it out is now, before you need it. If you find that condoms and emergency contraception aren’t readily accessible on campus, make a trip to the nearest Planned Parenthood or convenience store to pick up what you need. Keep extras in your dorm room as a backup. You never know when you or a friend might need a condom or the morning-after pill.
College is hard enough with classes, exams and extracurricular activities. You don’t need the added stress of figuring out how to use your health insurance or get your prescription refilled. Fortunately, you can take care of the health care stuff before your first lecture.
Allison Reilly is a marketing and communications coordinator at Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri.