A Student's Perspective on the Health Care Debate

This past April, I was diagnosed with Infectious Mononucleosis. And let me tell you, it's no fun. Unfortunately, my case of mono was incredibly bad, and I developed hepatitis (hepatitis means inflammation of the liver; I do not have one of the life-long diseases like A, B, or C). This was an incredibly painful event for me—my liver stopped producing bile, and I could not digest food. When I ate, I would vomit the food up, 15 hours later, completely undigested. My urine was dark, dark yellow. My skin itched everywhere. My stomach swelled up and was painful in any position. I lost 12 pounds in one week. And all of this was during finals; I took them, but blacked out during one, and had to go to the student health center to get on an IV. During all of this, I was seeing my doctor at the health center once a week, and getting blood tests all of the time. This wasn't a choice for me—they were necessary to monitor the condition of my liver and to see if hospitalization would be required. I lost count, although I think I got up to 8 or 9 different blood tests.

The health center was wonderful for this throughout my entire sickness—the staff was kind, my doctor was kind, and, best of all, my student health fee paid for all of it. Right?

Not exactly. My student health fee paid for the visits. Here's what it didn't pay for:

  • My bloodwork
  • My IV
  • The anti-nausea medication they put me on so that I could eat for the first time in a week
  • The various other tests that I was subjected to when it was feared that I had developed a few secondary infections
  • All of that was billed to my insurance. As I am a college student with demonstrably good grades and full-time enrollment, I am still on my parents' insurance plan. However, all of my health fees were either part of my deductible or were, for reasons I do not understand, flat-out denied. The charges were returned to the health center, who, in turn, placed a more than $500 charge to my student account. If that goes unpaid past the end of July, I get a financial hold placed on my student account that prevents me from doing any business with the University until my fees are paid.

    I'm lucky. I don't have $500, but I have parents who can help. And even if they don't help me, that money can conceivably come out of my scholarship this August. But what if I weren't so lucky? What if I didn't have $500, I didn't have parents who could help, and I didn't have a big scholarship? And what if I were maxed-out on loans and scraping to pull by as is? This could seemingly terminate my career as a student.

    I did not abuse the health center—I didn't ask for mono (and have no idea how I got it), and I certainly didn't seek out hepatitis. There were points in my sickness when I honestly feared dying. I did what I could, and got healthy again. But my charges caught up with me in a way that could end up with me not being able to register for classes or reap any benefit from my education.

    This whole incident has me outraged. I have never understood the idea of a copay—don't we already pay insurance so we don't have to pay at the doctor? Isn't the idea of insurance to insure that we will be safe during time of sickness? A conservative once explained to me that the copay was to make sure that you don't abuse your insurance, and that it is highly desirable for people as young as me, because we hardly ever have health issues, and a high copay with limited care is the most cost-effective option for me.

    Well, I sure as hell can't pay my charge. And what's even more ironic is that the disease that could very well end up derailing my educational career I almost certainly caught in my residence hall. It's time to fix the system.