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HUHS Removes Mental Health Care Visit Limits for Student Health

Harvard University Health Services announced it would remove visit limits for outpatient mental health care under the University's student health insurance plan.
Harvard University Health Services announced it would remove visit limits for outpatient mental health care under the University's student health insurance plan. By Jennifer Z. Liang
By Alex Chou and Camilla J. Martinez, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard University Health Services announced on Monday it would remove visit limits for outpatient mental health care and medical consultations under Harvard’s student health insurance plan.

HUHS Director Giang T. Nguyen and Chief Medical Officer Kathy G. Niknejad announced the change to Harvard affiliates in an email and noted that “all other benefits will remain the same.”

The change will take effect on Thursday, Nguyen and Niknejad wrote.

Before HUHS eliminated visit limits, students enrolled in Harvard’s health insurance plan were capped at 52 combined in and out-of-network outpatient mental health therapy and psychopharmacology visits.

Students were also limited to 12 combined in and out-of-network clinics’ and doctors’ visits, which include urgent, specialty, and diagnostic care from dermatologists, orthopedist, gastroenterologists, or urgent care clinicians.

The announcement comes amid the University’s most tumultuous period in decades as Harvard grapples with a leadership crisis and lingering tensions on campus over the war in Israel and Gaza.

“As we have seen many contributing world events over the last few years that have altered the landscape and the mental and physical wellness needs of our community, we’ve deemed these immediate changes necessary,” Niknejad and Nguyen wrote.

“Removing these limits will provide members in need with expanded access to the number of appointments they seek for care when using their student health insurance,” they added.

During the 2022 fiscal year, the student health insurance plan covered more than 10,000 graduate students and 2,500 undergraduate students, with a total of 116,000 patient visits. Through SHIP, students have access to hospital services and prescription drug benefits through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

According to an addendum published in the 2023-24 Student Health Program handbook, the decision to remove a limit on visits “does not impact cost-sharing for these services” or the Student Health Fee.

Several other Ivy League institutions had already lifted students’ limit for the number of in-network visits.

Harvard spokesperson Tiffanie A. Green declined to comment on criticisms of CAMHS and HUHS in the article.

Out-of-pocket costs for clinic and doctor’s office visits with in-network providers will remain at a $35 copayment under SHIP and 30 percent coinsurance with out-of-network providers after the deductible has been met.

These rates similarly apply to outpatient visits for mental health services and psychopharmacology with in-network providers and out-of-network providers, respectively, though there is no copayment for the first eight visits with an in-network provider.

Under SHIP, no referral is required for outpatient mental health visits outside of HUHS.

Santiago Salazar ‘26, an international student on SHIP, said he was unaware of the former restrictions regarding the maximum number of covered visits.

“I do think that it’s a little absurd that there was a limit at some point, because I know at least some of my friends have been really, really ill,” he said. “Knowing that they could have possibly been denied service or had to pay out of pocket would have been really hurtful to them.”

Amid ongoing tensions within and surrounding the University, Salazar said that “it’s extremely important for CAMHS to be offering these services right now.”

—Staff writer Alex Chou can be reached at alex.chou@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Camilla J. Martinez can be reached at camilla.martinez@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @camillajinm.

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