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Get to know your student health insurance

Last fall, freshwomen Sarah Yankelevitz and Mariko Funai exited Mills’ annual Flu Shot Clinic, Funai brandishing a Band-Aid and $5 receipt for the shot which was covered by her student health insurance.

“I don’t know if I even have SHIP,” Yankelevitz said, referring to the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) made available to Mills students by University Health Services.

According to statistics provided by the Mills’ Health Programs Office, 33.2 percent of undergraduates and 47.5 percent of graduate students chose SHIP coverage for the current spring semester.

Erica Browne, director of Health Programs at Mills, said she suggests students check their billing reports if they are unsure if they are covered. The reports are available at the M Center and online on myMills portal, and the charge for SHIP coverage will be clearly displayed as an item on the report.

Because every Mills student pays a comprehensive campus fee, she is entitled to Basic Medical Services at the Tang Center at UC Berkeley, which include walk-in urgent care, women’s annual examinations, and access to the advice nurse. Information on the vast number of other services offered at Tang may be found online at or in print materials available at Mills’ Health Programs Office.

Browne emphasizes that though students without SHIP can utilize Tang’s resources as they would any other medical facility, it is imperative that SHIP members begin their care at Tang. She and Mills’ Medical Support Services director, Cynthia Turner, have worked with students who have applied to SHIP for refunds on non-urgent care received at other facilities, such as Kaiser Medical Center, not knowing they were expected to visit the Tang Center first.

Though urgent care is offered at Tang, a student needing immediate care should call 911 and/or check in at the nearest emergency room. The confusion or frustration of keeping track of these expectations can be easily avoided by getting to know the details of your insurance coverage, which may include contacting your provider directly or making an appointment with a Mills’ Health Programs staff member.

Taking such initiative is a good habit for the future, and is especially appropriate in the current economic climate, where employment and the medical coverage it often entails may be restricted or terminated. If a student switches medical insurance plans or providers, she should brief herself on the specifications of her coverage.

Some providers may require a period of membership before one can receive full benefits or restrict full benefits to geographical regions or care providers. Such restrictions don’t apply with SHIP, however. According to print material provided by University Health Services and distributed by Mills Health Programs “SHIP provides 365 days of worldwide medical, dental, and vision coverage.” This particular feature benefits Mills’ international students, 92.3 percent of whom opted for SHIP coverage this semester, and students who participate in study abroad programs or travel during school breaks.

Additional support and information is available by appointment at the Health Programs Office located in Cowell Office 109, by e-mail at, or by phone at (510) 430 – 2260 (on-campus extension 2260).

Ciera Cummings is a student intern with Mills’ Health Services.