NINA COSDON, Editor-in-Chief—As Denison attempts to identify and contain cases of COVID-19 on campus, The Wellness Center continues to issue diagnostic and signal tests on a weekly basis.
Signal testing is the random testing of students and employees to obtain information on how the virus is spreading on campus. Diagnostic tests are issued when there is reason to believe a person may have been exposed to COVID-19.
One more difference between these two types of testing, however, is that Denison does not cover the cost of diagnostic tests. This means that if a person is identified by the college as requiring a diagnostic test, the college expects them to pay for it.
If a student has paid for Denison’s insurance plan, their diagnostic test will be covered. Otherwise, students will likely have to pay for their diagnostic COVID tests out of pocket while they wait to be reimbursed by their private insurance. According to the Reopen Denison website, diagnostic testing “is fully covered by Denison insurance and most other health insurance providers,” but for Paula Torres ‘22, her insurance provider was not one of them, leaving her with the bill.
Torres was one of several student tour guides who were exposed to an individual with COVID-19. Torres and other tour guides were given diagnostic tests and moved into isolation housing. On top of all of this, Torres realized that she would be forced to pay for her COVID test herself. Torres said that she was not notified directly of this charge, but “was checking my wellness portal and saw that a $100 charge was on my account.”
Another tour guide, who requested to remain anonymous to ensure their job security, corroborated Torres’s story. This tour guide said, “Paula [Torres] who was in quarantine for the same reason I was (the lack of protections put in place for student workers in the Admissions Office) noticed the charge in her wellness portal and asked me to check mine as well. Had she not told me, I would not have known I was even charged.”
Both Torres and this student noticed an $100 charge that listed “Michelle Barcelona” as the provider, but nowhere on their wellness portals was it clarified that this charge was for their diagnostic COVID test.
Torres did not hesitate to express her frustration with this charge, saying, “Denison is expecting me to pay for it and quite frankly after not working for a week and having to pay for food while in isolation, that’s a challenge…I pay for all my school expenses and don’t receive help from my parents.”
Torres contacted Dustin Brentlinger, the Director of Student Health & Wellness, to inquire as to why she hadn’t been given the option to take her diagnostic test somewhere that would have covered it. “If Denison is going to require students to get diagnostic tests done…we should be informed of the costs beforehand and not feel like we have to get it done within the school’s premises.”
Torres received a response from Brentlinger informing her that the Reopen Denison website had been her notification of the fee, and the only thing the school had not told her was how much she would be charged. The Reopen Denison website states that “The cost will vary depending on the type of test used” without giving any baseline or ballpark estimate, so students may be charged differently than Torres.
The anonymous tour guide was doubtful that their insurance would cover the charge of the diagnostic COVID test and seemed resigned to footing the bill: “Right now I’m planning on paying it because I am overwhelmed from the whole quarantine experience and I’m exhausted (both mentally and emotionally) from trying to get in touch with higher-ups in the Wellness Center. I am very disappointed.”
Both of these students suggested that if Denison is mandating diagnostic tests, they should be covering the expense.
COVID-19 is a pandemic and public health crisis; diagnostic tests must be financially accessible to all students to ensure the safety of the Denison community.
EDITORS’ NOTE: This is a developing story. The Denisonian will be following up with more administrators and students on the issues discussed.