The IU Health Center has stopped writing verification of visit slips for students suffering from short-term illness, injury or mental health problems who miss classes, assignments or tests.
The new policy went into effect Aug. 1.
There will be exceptions made for students who have ongoing serious illness, injury or disability which will be determined on a case-by-case basis by the medical providers, said Pete Grogg, executive director of IUHC.
“It really kind of relies on the communication between the student and the provider and the provider’s judgement whether or not they get this exception,” said Grogg.
An announcement regarding the policy, found on the IUHC website, lists reasons why the IUHC instituted this new policy.
One of these is that the medical providers at IUHC have no verifiable way of knowing if the student was actually ill enough to seek care.
IUHC providers are not tasked with figuring out who actually is or isn’t sick, said Beth Rupp, medical director of IUHC.
“I am not going to say they’re lying, that’s not my job,” Rupp said. “We were just giving a form saying they were seen here that day.”
Last school year, the health center began conducting random surveys. One question asked them to indicate the reason they attended the health center. Around 4.83% of students who completed the survey from December to April said the main reason for their visit was to obtain a verification of visit note.
“Some people would do that, they would walk into my office and sit down and say, ‘I am just here for a note,’” Rupp said.
Another reason cited in the announcement is how the $45 cost of visiting IUHC can put those with lower incomes at a disadvantage from their peers. IUHC only accepts Blue Cross Blue Shield or Anthem insurance to offset the costs.
Bo Slade, president of Culture of Care, a student-led group which works to instill a campus culture in which students care for one another, cited the cost of the visit as a reason to approach the IUHC in 2018 to discuss the removal of the verification of visit forms.
“For some people the idea of going to the health center and paying $45 for a check-up is no big deal, but for others that’s a lot of money,” Slade said. “When you’re working for college and kind of paying for everything on your own, $45 matters.”
Steve Sanders, former Chairperson of the Student Affairs committee of the Bloomington Faculty Council, said he was not fully aware of the amount students had to pay in order to go to the health center and obtain a verification form.
Other reasons for the new policy are that students who just needed notes prevented students who needed care from being seen and the absence of the note would encourage students to attend the health center only when necessary and to stay at home when self-care is needed.
Eliza Pavalko, Vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, sent out a message last spring and earlier this month informing faculty of the new policy. They were also sent the minutes from the Bloomington Faculty Council meeting where this new policy was discussed.
The faculty has been informed of this change, but they are not required to change their personal policies regarding attendance.
The way attendance is recorded and managed can vary within schools and even between professors in those schools. Because IUHC cannot dictate professors’ or instructors’ attendance policies, it is possible that professors can still ask for doctors’ notes, possibly making students attend another facility in order to obtain one.
Rupp said she hopes that eventually students will only come in if they need to be seen, and not because an instructor requires a note.
"I think there’s always growing pains any time you do something, but I feel very strongly that this is really the best thing for students,” Rupp said. “So, I want to continue to try to push this.”