December 18, 2007
Insurance/Costs, School and Daycare
Question from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA:
My son has type 1 diabetes. He is a junior in high school and thinking about college. He is considering larger universities. What do universities typically do to insure the health of students will type 1?
(Presuming you meant “ensure” not “insure”) I don’t think you can expect the university to do anything special to ensure the health of a student with diabetes other than to make sure that health service facilities (including psychological counseling) are available and any accommodation necessary for the student’s food needs are met (including allowing a refrigerator in the room). I strongly suggest having a roommate in case of unexpected serious low blood sugar at school with change of activity, food and schedule (though I don’t think you can expect the roommate to give glucagon, but he or she can call EMS if necessary and know where the glucagon is kept in the room.)
I suggest you ask you child’s doctor if he or she can be available by phone/fax or e-mail to answer questions from your child and help adjust insulin doses if necessary while your child is away at school. If your son goes away to school, he needs to be prepared to care for his own diabetes, including knowing how to get help at school if he needs it either from health service or from his own doctor back home. If you are very concerned, you might want your son to see an endocrinologist near the school when he gets there, though I find most college students prefer to call their home endocrinologist if they have any questions. The school health service may be able to help your son locate a local endocrinologist. If you do not feel your son is responsible enough to manage his own diabetes at school, perhaps he should consider going to a local school so he can live at home.
Additional comments from Dr. Stuart Brink:
Not much. This responsibility rests with the students and the parents. Some colleges, however, have some diabetes support groups. It depends upon individual nursing staff at the student infirmaries.
Additional comments from David S. Holtzman, Esq.:
(Presuming you meant “insure”) Congratulations on thinking ahead! If your son is now covered through a comprehensive health insurance policy as part of a group or family contract, you can expect to be able to continue that coverage while he is attending college, so long as it is in the USA. Check the benefit booklet or group contract to learn the exact age and conditions for his continued coverage. Health insurance programs offered through colleges/universities are minimal coverage, designed more for medical treatment due to accident or hospitalization due to acute illness. This type of coverage will not be of much benefit to someone with a chronic disease like diabetes. If your family relies on coverage for your son through a SCHIP plan, these programs usually age-out at 18. Your family will need to plan now for how to assure appropriate coverage while he is pursuing his education.