Students will have a new provider of health care services when classes resume next semester.
The NIU Board of Trustees approved an agreement Nov. 15 to have Northwestern Medicine assume management of Health Services, effective Jan. 15. Such a change was among the recommendations stemming from the Program Prioritization process.
“We are excited to enter into a partnership with one of the most respected health care systems in the nation,” said Wheeler Coleman, chair of the NIU Board of Trustees.
“The health care field is complex, ever changing and requires particular skills and resources,” Coleman added. “Northwestern has the expertise to successfully navigate the constantly evolving health care landscape and to provide outstanding care for our students.”
NIU President Lisa Freeman said that the university was pleased to find a partner that shares its commitment to outstanding student healthcare.
“The well-being of our students is a top priority,” Freeman said. “This new arrangement will ensure that they not only receive excellent care on campus, but that they also can easily utilize the full range of medical services offered by Northwestern Medicine, which includes several of the top-rated hospitals in the state and some of the top specialists in many disciplines.”
Health Services provides basic outpatient health care similar to that of an urgent care facility or primary care physician’s office. Under Northwestern Medicine, the facility will continue to offer all of the current services, as well as an expanded menu of clinical services.
Students who require specialty care beyond the scope of the clinic can be referred to specialists within the Northwestern Medicine system. They also will benefit from having electronic health care records that can be instantly viewed at any Northwestern Medicine facility, allowing for greater continuity of care. Under Northwestern Medicine, the clinic also will offer more flexible hours and offer services on a walk-in basis, versus the appointment-only model currently in place.
The change should be seamless for students, said Andrew Digate, director of NIU Health Services. There will be no requirements for enrollment or any other steps required for them to receive services. “Students just need to call for an appointment, or come in during walk-in hours, and they will receive services just as before,” Digate said.
Northwestern Medicine’s ability to accept a wide variety of insurance plans should simplify visits for many students, he added.
“Students used to say to us all the time that they didn’t use Health Services because we were unable to accept their health insurance to pay for services beyond the scope of those covered by the Student Health Fee. Because Northwestern Medicine has the resources to bill most health insurance companies that barrier is now removed.”
One of the unique innovations included in this agreement is the creation of a pilot program allowing NIU students to receive the services available to them on campus at Northwestern Medicine clinics in Chicago and Naperville beginning in August 2019.
Digate said rumors that the new management would decrease care for women and transgender students are untrue. Other than the discontinuation of one very rarely performed procedure (less than 10 times per year), no changes are coming in those areas or to any clinical offerings or services.
“The experienced family medicine providers who will staff the clinic under Northwestern Medicine’s management undergo rigorous, comprehensive training and are equipped to meet the needs of female, male and LGBTQIA students,” Digate said. “They benefit from clinical training that helps them stay up-to-date on the treatment of all individuals regardless of gender.”
Under the agreement approved Thursday, NIU will pay Northwestern Medicine $1.9 million a year, using funds from the student health fee assessed students on a per-credit-hour basis. That fee is proposed to be reduced about 5 percent, starting next academic year. The change also represents an annual savings of about $400,000 for the university.
“This is a unique opportunity that saves the university money and allows us to reduce costs for students while at the same time providing better service,” said NIU Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Sarah McGill.
Northwestern Medicine, which already operates two hospitals and several clinics in DeKalb County, is excited to extend its offerings to the campus of NIU.
“Our top priority is to offer world-class health care services to the local community. The student population at NIU is a vital and vibrant segment of the DeKalb community and we are proud to extend our services to meet the university’s health needs,” said Jay Anderson, president, Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital.