In the April 8 column in the News “Are you covered?” Evan Walker-Wells ’13 LAW ’22 and Blake Schultz LAW ’21 MED ’22 understandably express concern for student access to health care services during the COVID-19 crisis in a country with a fragmented care delivery system. At a time when Yale students have suddenly dispersed to 50 states and many countries, it is critically important that our students receive accurate health care information. In this spirit, I offer important clarifications to points in their op-ed.

Yale Health Plan (YHP) is the health care plan Yale offers to students who have waived coverage available from alternative sources. Health care coverage for students enrolled in YHP is extensive, including medically necessary care for a broad spectrum of clinical conditions for which scheduled treatment is necessary.  

Walker-Wells and Shultz have not accurately characterized the coverage provided by the YHP. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, YHP has quickly adapted to address the needs of patients who are no longer on campus. For students on the plan who are no longer in New Haven, the process for obtaining authorization for care and related coverage is simple and equitable. 

We have communicated directly with our student population about this, advising them to seek immediate care for urgent needs — including treatment for COVID-19 symptoms — and that YHP will cover 100 percent of the services. Students with ongoing conditions and non-urgent new health concerns, have been asked to contact Student Health for clinical advice and prior authorization — a highly responsive system that has proven effective for students facing unexpected medical decisions. 

The final determination of coverage necessarily comes after service has been provided, a practice that is nearly universal across health care plans. The simple process of determining coverage facilitates care for Yale students wherever they are, and it has been running smoothly.

YHP student coverage during the pandemic does not extend to preventive care; these services are in abeyance across the world as health care providers and institutions stretch to provide emergency patient care during a global pandemic. That said, students, wherever they are now, may consult with Student Medicine about their preventive care needs and explore options for meeting them. Yale Health Pharmacy is also working with students to ensure access to their prescription medications by mail at the same price they would pay at the pharmacy window. 

In addressing student mental health coverage, the authors touch on a unique challenge. Mental health providers in Connecticut may not legally treat patients in states that lack licensure reciprocity. Requirements vary by state and by clinical degree (M.D., Ph.D. and LCSW). And reciprocity is a moving target as states respond in different ways to the COVID-19 crisis. This means our providers might not be permitted to treat students in certain states. But our Mental Health & Counseling (MHC) is working directly with students to explore their available options. When MHC is unable to provide medically necessary care, its staff are arranging for the student to access alternative care where they are at YHP’s expense.

Yale has put careful thought and great effort into revising YHP coverage for students in this time of crisis. Yale students have access to reliable information and advice, as well as to appropriate health care coverage through YHP. Information for Yale student YHP enrollees is available on the Yale Health website. We encourage students to call Student Health with questions and concerns at 203-432-0312.

PAUL GENECIN is the director of Yale Health. Contact him at paul.genecin@yale.edu.