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Castleton student's case of confusing health insurance - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Castleton student's case of confusing health insurance

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CASTLETON, Vt. -

Many college students use their school's health insurance, but at Castleton University that could mean a costly trip if a student needs to use the nearest hospital. Rutland Regional Medical Center is the closest hospital by a half-hour, but it's not covered by the school's insurance and that leaves some students footing a big bill.

"I come from a country where health insurance is completely free," said Leenda Maraldi, freshman.

Maraldi is from Italy. When she arrived in America last year, she says her counselor advised her to sign up for the school's health care program.

"This was my first time ever dealing with insurance," said Maraldi.

The First Health Network covers about 75 percent of a hospital bill, but not for every hospital.

"It's the only policy that VSC had to offer," said Jeff Weld, the dean of advancement at Castleton University.

The closest hospital in the plan's coverage is Porter Medical Center, in Middlebury, which is 30 miles from campus. But that's not the hospital where ambulances would bring patients. 

"In an emergency situation, emergency personnel are going to take them to the closest place and Rutland's going to be that one," said Weld. 

In the fall of last year, Maradli took two emergency trips by ambulance to Rutland Regional Medical Center for mental health issues. One trip landed her in ICU for two days and a week in the psychiatric unit.

"Whether the school insurance would cover hospital in Rutland didn't even cross my mind," said Maraldi. 

Last December, she started to receive bills totaling over $36,000.

"My insurance only paid for half of it, so right now I am $18,000 in debt," said Maraldi.

"It's unfortunate but it is a reality of the health care system in the country that we are facing right now," said Weld.

Maraldi says she wishes the school would educate students who are on the Vermont State Colleges' health insurance about what it does and doesn't cover. 

"Even if we did read the policy, we would not understand it. We would see the word co-pay and now I know what it means because it's the nightmare of my life right now," said Maraldi. 

She is getting some help. A school counselor helped her negotiate with the insurance company which says it will pay 80 percent of the bill leaving her to come up with $7,000.

So who's affected by this? Most Castleton students are still covered by their parents' health care plans. The university says 65 students are on the school's plan and most of those are international students like Maraldi.

If you would like to help Leenda with her medical bills, click here.

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