Referendum proposes to increase health center fees

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A referendum which would increase students’ health fees by $20 was introduced by the Addie Klotz Student Health Center and approved Tuesday by Associated Students to be placed on the April 12-13 A.S. election ballot.

The Student Health Center is expected to lose about $1.1 million from the State General Fund due to expected budget cuts in the CSU system, said Linda Chassiakos, director of the Student Health Center.

The $20 fee increase, if approved in the election, would raise the health service fee to $50.

The increase would be used to compensate for the expected budget cut, and keep health services operating, Chassiakos said. The health center will need about $3.2 million to operate for the next academic year.

If the referendum passes, students will also be charged an additional dollar every year until the 2015-16 school year to accommodate for inflation.

Student fees pay for the salaries and keep staff employed at the health center, but 35 percent of staff will be reduced if the majority of CSUN students don’t pass the measure, according to the proposal introduced by Chassiakos.

Chassiakos said there are 35 full-time and 50 part-time employees on staff in the Klotz Student Health Center.

According to a “Voter’s Guide” analysis of the proposal she presented to A.S., that percentage is equal to letting go of “two primary care doctors, one practitioner, almost all specialty doctors, physical therapists, two receptionists, three medical records staffers, two health educators, and three nurses and medical assistants.”

Several free services provided for students will also not be offered if the referendum does not pass, she said.

“These are serious decisions that we have to think about,” Chassiakos said.

About 300 students visit the Health Center every day, and about 40,000 visit every year, with about two to three students turned away each day, Chassiakos said. It is never sick students that are turned away, though, she said.

If the measure does not pass, due to loss of health service funds, several more students will be turned away, Chassiakos said.

Students will also have to wait for days or weeks to get an appointment if the referendum is not passed, she said.

“Fee increases have come left, right and sideways,” Chassiakos said. “But, one of the things we looked at is, where do we stand compared to other CSUs?”

Chassiakos said students should not mind paying $20 extra, because CSUN has the third lowest health-service fee in the CSU system.

Several CSUs charge more than $100 in health service fees, and CSU Fresno recently passed a similar referendum that raised student health fees by $20, according to the proposal.

The Center has and will continue to find other ways of funding health services, but is looking to CSUN students as its main money source, Chassiakos said.

“We have not found consistent high-priced funding,” Chassiakos said.

The health center receives between $3,000 and $10,000 in state grants, and also receives funding from pharmaceutical companies, but is careful about accepting those funds, she said

“(Sometimes), they come with strings attached,” Chassiakos said. “We don’t want to risk the health of our students.”

Johny Tadros, A.S. senator for the College of Arts, Media, and Communication, said he believes the referendum may have a hard time passing in the election.

“I was actually concerned with if it was going to pass or not,” Tadros said. “Once students hear ‘increase,’ the reaction is ‘no.’ I hope students will look at what’s at stake, and make a wise decision.”

A.S. will take a stance on whether it supports the referendum or not at next week’s meeting, said Cara Keith, A.S. president.

Ruby Carrillio, freshman biology major who has been to the Health Center twice, said she is willing to vote in favor of the referendum.

“I had a roommate who had an emergency with (an injury)” Carrillio said. “(The Health Center) really helped her out.”

About 40 percent of students on campus are uninsured, Chassiakos said.

According to the analysis proposal, some students who are insured view the fees as an inconvenience, since they don’t use CSUN’s Health Center.

“Students should look at the public health issue and the convenience of having it on campus,” Chassiakos said. “I think we’re a wonderful supplement that can save (students) money.”

A.S. Senator Mohammad Jahangard said the senators want to hear student opinions on whether they want the referendum to pass or not.

“It sounds like a good idea to let the students choose if they want the increase,” Jahangard said.