An Area Where Profit Shouldn’t Matter

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I?ve tried to write this column several different times. I?ve tried to make it cute, witty, conversational and logical, but there?s really no other way to write this column than to say it flat-out: The health care situation in this country is immoral, based on greed, and detrimental for the entire nation.

OK, so you?ve heard that before, right? You waded through the tongue-flapping waves of the presidential debates and tried to process all the political jargon and rhetoric.

Besides, how the hell does it apply to you anyway? As soon as you graduate from the University of Utah, you?ll land that fat accounting job with the 401k, respectable salary and full insurance benefits.

But the problem is that a lot of us at the U and every other university in the country don?t have health insurance at this very moment.

Along with stressing about our studies and our jobs, a lot of us worry that minor head colds will turn into sinus infections, bronchitis, even pneumonia.

And a lot of us simply can?t get health insurance while we?re in school?we don?t have the kinds of jobs that give peons benefits, or we don?t have the time to work, or even if we do qualify for health insurance through our jobs, we can?t afford the high premiums.

Chances are, either you or the person with the runny nose sitting next to you in class is simply without health insurance.

Is that right? Is it right for a society such as ours, that directly benefits from college-educated workers, to say it?s OK that a lot of us go years without insurance? Is it moral for our government to reap the rewards of our efforts while throwing us a couple of loans and giving us the stiff arm when we have health problems?

And even more applicable to all of us, is it moral that the U, with its highly regarded medical school and health sciences college, literally profits from the work of its med students while much of its student body has to live without access to health care that is on the other end of campus?

Without sounding too much like a politician, I say hell no.

Health is not something that organizations or individuals should profit from, including universities. Yeah, I know, we live in a capitalist society and go to school at a university that is kept in business (yes, business) by wealthy capitalists.

But I think it?s extremely ridiculous and inexcusable that U med students work in local clinics and hospitals for the profitable gain of the school while a sizeable chunk of that school?s student body goes without.

I once went to a local clinic where I was seen several times by a med student or a resident (I?m not sure which). I received excellent health care, as this person was enthusiastic about my well-being and about his opportunity to help me feel better.

While this individual didn?t seem concerned about his paycheck or tee times, his employers?the owners of the clinic and the administrators of the U?s medical school?were. I had to shell out as much money to see this potential doctor as I would have had I gone to a private clinician. In other words, it wasn?t cheap.

There is a lot the university and even the government could do to ensure that its students at least have the peace of mind that if a head cold should turn into something more serious, an affordable and accessible cure is available.

Take the U?s counseling center, located in the Student Services Building.

It?s expensive to see therapists and counselors in the private sector, even when an HMO is involved, and the U could justify charging an arm and a leg for those who need help.

But the center doesn?t. Knowing that there is a plethora of willing and able graduate students who want to get experience, the counseling center employs them at a cut-rate price, allowing students, faculty and staff to use the center for what is essentially the cost of pocket lint.

So why isn?t the U?s med school doing the same thing? Why not take all of those med students, station them in the Student Health Center, and have them there, ready to give students affordable consultation? Why doesn?t the government come up with a plan that makes medication affordable to everybody, and especially students?

All because of the Benjamins.

There?s money to be made every time a person breaks her leg, every time a person comes down with hepatitis, every time a parent?s child burns himself on the stove.

And because capitalism has been so perverted in this country, society says it?s OK. It?s OK to charge hundreds of dollars for medication that could be made affordable if it weren?t for stocks and profit margins. It?s OK to show the less fortunate the door if that person doesn?t have the means to pay for the stitches that will close that head wound. It?s OK for the university to continue using its students?some of whom don?t have insurance?to send patients bills that require loans to pay.

Call me an idealist if you wish, but in a better world, capitalism would take a back seat to ensuring people are healthy.

Within a better government, as many people as possible would have access to good health.

And at a better university, its students, faculty and staff would be given the common decency of being seen by the doctors and potential doctors who work on the east side of our campus, even if the patient has nothing but $5 in her pocket.