Why do I have to pay to replace my birth control when I have insurance?


Q: I lost my birth control 2 weeks before the end of last quarter.  The Student Health pharmacy told me that I’d have to pay $60 for a replacement or else wait until the start of this quarter.  I can’t afford that – don’t you have a back-up policy for prescriptions, considering birth control is basic health care?

A: While I’m sorry this happened to you, I’m glad you asked this question – it will give us a chance to discuss some important stuff about the health care system.

Technically speaking, this is actually not a Student Health Services issue.  While we prescribe the medication, and our pharmacy dispenses the medication, it is actually the Student Health Insurance office that determines what you have to pay.  You should contact them if you have questions or concerns about your coverage.

But your situation touches on some really big questions that everybody in Washington has been arguing about for years.  Is basic health care a right?  What is “basic” health care?  Who should pay for it?  How much are we all personally responsible for the cost of maintaining our own health? 

If we assume that basic health care is a right, what specific benefits should be included?  In a health care system with finite financial resources, should certain birth control medications be covered when there are far less expensive options available?  Medicines are like any other consumer product; they cost money to produce and the organizations who produce them need to cover their costs and meet a budget – just like doctor’s offices, pharmacies, labs (and universities).  Some medicines are more expensive than others, and doctors and patients and insurance plans have to take that into account when choosing which ones to use.

I think a lot of your frustration comes from the fact that even though you pay for your insurance every quarter, you have no idea what you’re actually getting.  What does a doctor’s visit actually cost?  What does that medication actually cost?  Who knows!?  It depends!  Different insurance plans pay different amounts for the same service – and there are literally thousands of different plans – so even your health care provider doesn’t know what things cost.  

As part of your education here at THE Ohio State University, we want to teach you how to be a knowledgeable health care consumer and as you discovered, those lessons can be more confusing than a Math 151 lecture.  The bottom line is that we are all ultimately responsible for paying for our own health care.  So do your research and read the fine print – the answer will be in there somewhere, even if it’s not the one you’re looking for.   

John Vaughn, MD

GYT – STD Testing – Get the Facts

Taking a patient's medical history.

Get Yourself Tested (GYT) – Part 2!

Since April is STD Awareness Month, this seems like a good time to blog about what an STD check visit is like at Student Health.  So who gets STD testing at SHS?  Students who:

  • have symptoms (like burning or itching with urination, discharge, painful intercourse)
  • feel fine, but are scared about possible exposures
  • feel fine, but want a check-up because they are with a new partner
  • have occasional hook-ups, and want to make sure they haven’t acquired anything
  • come in for other problems that turn out to be STDs (Surprise!) 

Whatever brings you in, our SHS clinicians are happy to talk to you and answer any questions you may have about STD’s: symptoms you may have, concerns about your partner, ways to protect yourself, and many other subjects.  SHS offers confidential tests for reasonable cost including:

  • urine testing for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
  • blood testing for HIV and Syphilis. 

As always, check with your insurance company regarding possible coverage for medical tests.

In addition, our friends at the Student Wellness Center at the RPAC offer free anonymous oral HIV tests that give results in minutes. 

Take a look at this link for a 3 minute STD testing visit video from the GYT website, and check out this FAQ on STD testing.

Good Sexual Health!!

Roger Miller, MD for BuckMD 

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Sneezing!


I know spring is finally sprung when I walk outside, anxious to soak up some warmth and sunshine, then sneeze and rub my itchy eyes.  Behold the heavenly aroma of the hyacinth… and the cough and wheeze which follow.  I gravitate, lighter than air (if you knew me, that’s saying something) towards the crab apple tree in full bloom… and quickly thereafter start the steroids and applying cold compresses to my hives.   Allergy season is here, my friends.   Let the sneezing begin!

Environmental allergies can manifest themselves in a variety of ways and if you’re unlucky enough to have them, you may experience any and all of the following: itchy, watery eyes; serial sneezing; runny nose; popping ears; itchy skin; wheezing and sputtering.

Avoidance of the pollens and other allergens is a very effective way of dealing with allergies – possibly as effective as medication – so you can:

  • Stay inside when pollen counts are highest, generally in the early- and mid-morning.
  • Stay inside when the air quality is especially bad.
  • Keep your windows closed and the air conditioning on.
  • Stay inside when you hear the sound of lawnmowers.
  • Take a shower, change and wash your pollen-covered clothes as soon as possible after playing in the great outdoors.

But can your allergies be controlled without forcing you to live in a bubble?  Fortunately, yes.  There are a variety of over-the-counter (OTC) medications called “antihistamines” that are pretty effective at controlling allergy symptoms.  They’re all fine to use now and then if you can tolerate a little (or possibly a lot) of drowsiness and fatigue.  The older antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) are more sedating while newer ones like cetirizine (Zyrtec) and loratadine (Claritin, Alavert) are less sedating.  

For the floodgate that noses can sometimes be, occasional use of a decongestant like pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) can be helpful.  Pseudoephedrine usually has the opposite effect of antihistamines and acts a stimulant so it can keep you awake at night, and raise your blood pressure.  Try to avoid OTC nasal sprays and definitely avoid the OTC asthma medications.

When OTC medications just aren’t enough, ask your health care provider for some help. We have a variety of very useful drugs in our tool belts, and when necessary can refer you to an allergy specialist for testing and possibly desensitization therapy.

So by all means, get out there for a hike, a run, a picnic, to study, or whatever is your pleasure.  But if the great outdoors leave you gasping for breath or struggling for a Kleenex, give us a call.

Victoria Rentel, MD

And the Oscar goes to… your testicles!

This week is Testicular Cancer Awareness week – because nothing else says “spring is here” like grabbing your package – so to follow-up on our posts about the L.A.N.C.E. of testicular cancer (parts one and two), Student Health Services has created our very own movie about how to talk to your friends about testicular cancer!

After you watch the video, be sure to check out this really cool website to learn how to do a testicular self exam and take their poll that asks that all important question – “How many times a day do you touch your balls?”

We hope it’s often (OK… not too often… and not that… you know what we mean… get your mind out of the gutter) and regularly.  And if you notice something that shouldn’t be there, or feels different than it did the last time you checked, make sure you come in to see us so we can check it out!

Victoria Rentel, MD

John A. Vaughn, MD