EDITOR IN CHIEF
Last week, a handful of students received an email from Nebraska Medicine with the subject line “IMPORTANT: Billing changes for UNO psychiatric care begin Jan. 1.”
The email went on to explain that return visits with two psychiatric care practitioners (Rebecca Wysoske, MD and Lyndsay Dean, APRN) would no longer be covered by the University Program and Facilities Fee and would instead be billed to patients’ insurance.
“This change was a difficult decision to make, as we understand the financial impact this may have on their patients,” the email read. “However, it allows the health center to continue providing the many services UNO students need at a lower cost.”
Cathy Pettid, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Student Success and Dean of Students at UNO said only patients receiving ongoing services from the aforementioned providers will be impacted by the change.
“Despite these changes, we do not want to dissuade any students from making use of this service,” Pettid said. “It is important to note that the initial intake/consultation visit will continue to be covered by student fees. Following this consultation, staff members will work with individual students to map out next steps and support options, whether that includes continuing treatment or referral to another physician or service.”
These initial consultations are vital to students just beginning their journey with mental healthcare, but UNO student Candace Cusimano said she would have to find a different avenue for psychiatric care because she has lost access to her current practitioner at the university.
“I found it [the billing changes] incredibly disappointing and knew this was just an attempt at making a profit, as healthcare has become,” Cusimano said. “To perfectly candid, I no longer can afford to go there thanks to my lack of Nebraska insurance. I am an Iowa resident and my health insurance won’t cover the university healthcare, which means I need to find a new psychiatrist on top of everything else I have going on as a student.”
Although some students may worry about paying for mental healthcare with these upcoming billing changes, Pettid said different financial options are available for students.
“The Nebraska Medicine – UNO Health Center is providing resources to ease the financial burden on those who opt to receive continuing care through Dr. Wysoske or Lyndsay Dean,” Pettid said. “Financial assistance is available for those who are qualified. Patients can also opt to pay out-of-pocket at a reduced cost.”
Pettid—and the email sent to students—said that a Nebraska Medicine customer service senior associate is available at the UNO Health Center on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to speak with patients and help them apply for financial assistance. Nebraska Medicine’s patient financial counseling team can also be reached at 402-559-5346 to discuss options. Students can also email PFSquestions@nebraskamed.com.
Cusimano said she found it easier to seek help from her insurance provider to find a new psychiatrist than talking with university services.
Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at UNO uses a short-term model of therapy, meaning students, faculty and staff are eligible for eight to 10 cost-free sessions, according to the CAPS website. However, the CAPS website also states that this counseling model may not be the best approach for some students and work to refer students to the right options.
UNO student Cassidy Cielocha said she appreciated the services available at UNO but felt students did not have enough information regarding mental healthcare.
“We have great services available to students, I just don’t think as many students know about them as they should,” Cielocha said. “It’s almost something that needs to be re-announced each semester by teachers and information handed out so students can either hang onto the information if they plan on using it or they can just be made aware.”
Pettid said students looking for additional support outside of the Nebraska Medicine and the UNO Health Center can find support services available to all students on the UNO website. Those support systems include services ranging from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to on-campus support and recovery groups.
“We take the health and wellness of our Maverick Family very seriously and mental health services remain a priority to Nebraska Medicine and University of Nebraska at Omaha,” Pettid said. “We encourage all students to connect, take care and get help.”