Quality Healthcare Should Be a Right Not Privilege

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Author: Sasha Pokrovskaya

When discussing the tenets of the healthcare industry in the U. S., it’s hard not to be cynical. Sadly, it’s truly a business, for it is profit-driven rather than concerned with the welfare and livelihood of American citizens. Access to basic healthcare ought to be a right. It should be focused on providing the best care to the most people with the intention of alleviating sickness and pain. In a profit-driven system, most hospitals and clinics are corporations concerned with making money, so quality care is secondary. In fact, businesses are required by law to make profit a priority. Preventative medicine is forsaken in favor of either neglect or often times unnecessary and costlier procedures.

As institutions of higher learning, universities ought to be progressive. I am eternally surprised by the healthcare provided by our nation’s colleges. Unfortunately, even our own Emmons seems to be no different from those health businesses. It pains me to say this since I hope to one day enter into the field of medicine. Students joke that when a girl goes to Emmons, the diagnosis is that she is either pregnant or has an STD, and Emmons’ solution is antibiotics. In no way do I seek to attack any of the people working there. I know that nurse practitioners and other staff have had very rigorous training and education, but the fact remains that there are definitive gaps in the collegiate healthcare system.

I bring two examples that I feel are important for public knowledge. Firstly, a friend of mine started to feel ill at the end of a winter semester. Suspecting she might have a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) she went to Emmons and was told to wait and see how things progress. Her condition only degenerated as she was waiting things out and had to go to the Emergency Room during winter vacation. The bill was around $5000 and her student health insurance only covered $3700. The rest she had to pay herself. She was extremely overwhelmed by the matter and sought assistance from the Student Insurance Client Services Representative for United Healthcare. United Healthcare is the only option offered to students without alternative insurance. Oxy mandates that all attending students have health insurance. Oxy students are free to choose others, but many don’t have experience in the matter of shopping for insurance and, as a result, don’t have alternatives.

My friend asked how it was possible that she was now facing a bill of $1300 to the hospital she had no choice but to visit. The Representative answered that it wasn’t part of her job to deal with such matters. She then inquired what precisely was the job of the Representative? The Representative stated that her job is to deal with misunderstandings and misbillings the companies may have: essentially, the business and profit-driven side of health insurance. Here is the catch: after the deductible, the student health insurance will only pay 80 percent of what they think the procedure should cost. For example, a student needs a procedure which costs $100 at Emmons. United Healthcare decides that it should only cost $80, so it will reimburse 80 percent of $80 = $64. This means that the rest, $36 is up to the student.

This may seem trivial to you, but it simply illustrates the problem that is plaguing not only colleges across America, but the nation. Rather than paying the $36 copay of a doctor’s visit, or the full $100 of preventive procedures, American citizens are choosing to wait and see how the sickness progresses. Perhaps it will go away on its own. As everyone knows, while people wait, conditions go unchecked and in the end, emergency health procedures cost much more. The hospital earns more money at the time, but from the perspective of the patient, much of the hassle could have been prevented with earlier intervention.

The second example concerns a matter equally illustrative—another friend of mine decided to get a full STD check. She had asked preemptively how much of the cost was likely to be covered by the Insurance. The staff had no idea. In the end, the student health insurance covered $200 of $320. The rest she was supposed to cover herself. To me, it seems that on a college campus, STD checks should be easy, private and free. Everyone, by this point in time, ought to be aware of safe sex practices, but life happens and sometimes things don’t quite go according to plan. The staff, in the least, could have advised her to visit Planned Parenthood where the procedures are both anonymous and free.

These two examples concerning Emmons hopefully not only illustrate where our institution falls behind but also demonstrate national problems. The current economy is failing and from a healthcare point of view, things are only getting worse as people are cutting costs in any way they can. In several informational interviews I have conducted recently, many health care professionals have complained about the state of affairs. One nurse told me that people are simply coming in much sicker. Business is slow, people wait until the last moment-often times calling for extreme measures-to go see a doctor.

According to the National Coalition on Healthcare, the latest government data available from 2007, shows that 46 million Americans were uninsured. This number has only gone up since millions of Americans have lost their jobs. The number of foreclosures associated with insurmountable medical costs is staggering.

Perhaps you have simply never noticed these insurance problems because your parents foot the bill or you simply don’t care. Maybe you just haven’t had the exposure to the sick and underprivileged population. In either case, it is hopefully evident that ultimately, modern profit-driven healthcare practices are not only unsustainable, they are simply inhumane. Access to quality healthcare ought not to be a privelege for those who can afford it, but should be open to all, starting with students.

Emmons, along with other college clinics, should provide accessible services so that students aren’t burdened with worries of cost.

Sasha Pokrovskaya is a senior Biology major. She can be reached at apokrovskaya@oxy.edu.

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