It was actually pretty ironic. While finishing an essay on America’s meat industry, I got food poisoning from leftover pork. What added even more hilarity to the situation? This happened during finals week, and the essay I was finishing was due at 8 a.m. I tried to deny that I was sick for as long as possible – lots of people write essays while curled up around a trashcan and sweating through their Led Zeppelin T-shirts, right? But by 3 a.m. – five hours until my final, mind you – I finally admitted defeat.
Even in my stomach-churning misery, I was able to appreciate the care given to me when I fell ill. The DPS officer working the front desk of Straz Tower (where I lived then) called a DPS car to pick me up and take me to the hospital. The driver and the desk worker were both exceptionally helpful and kind to me, and I was even accompanied inside the hospital by a Straz resident assistant who had no finals the next day.
As is protocol for a medical emergency, I was taken to Aurora Sinai Medical Care. This makes sense, seeing as Aurora is essentially on Marquette campus. Not only that, but the facility is huge and well prepared for any emergencies.
But once I got to Aurora, my satisfaction with my treatment began to diminish. As I was being led to my hospital room, I saw five Milwaukee police officers sitting in the hallway. When I walked past them, an intoxicated homeless man began screaming incoherently at me. Naturally, I was anxious to walk past the room, but I didn’t get very far – I was placed in the room directly across from his room. I soon realized that the five police officers were guarding that man.
I was able to handle this placement without too much stress. The officers were having an entertaining conversation about a new taser gun that they had seen on a late-night cop show. I didn’t have to wait terribly long for my nurse and physician assistant to arrive, and they were both good caregivers. After three hours, I was released.
Then I got the bill. My medical expenses were $2,048, and the labs were an additional $125. Yes, this is above average. According to a 2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the average expense of an ER visit is $1,265.
The reason that my bill was so high, even after insurance helped pay the fee, is because of the nature of Aurora Sinai’s clientele. The hospital is located in an area where many of its walk-in patients are uninsured. The result is that when people who can pay are admitted, the hospital bill turns out to be larger than average because they are compensating for money lost from uninsured patients.
Although Aurora Sinai’s location to campus is ideal for students, the location also creates a less-than-ideal hospital bill. So, here’s the question: should students have a choice of which hospital they are sent to?
Columbia St. Mary’s, located on North Lake Drive, is a hospital opened a year ago this month. This hospital offers ER services and a full, capable staff. And hey, it’s also not bad that 80 percent of their rooms have a Lake view.
It is very important to note that Columbia St. Mary’s is further from campus than the down-the-street Aurora Sinai. But although Aurora Sinai boasts a nearby location, the expenses paid at their facility are higher than those paid by one admitted to Columbia St. Mary’s. So, since we, the students, bear the financial weight of our medical bills, shouldn’t we be able to chose which hospital we are sent to? If we know that Aurora is an exceptionally expensive ER facility, shouldn’t we be able to choose a more economic facility?
And now I’ll get a little more sassy. If my hospital bill is going to be twice that of an average hospital bill, then I do not want to be sitting in a harsh, windowless room across from a drunk man yelling slurry, crude comments at me. Call me crazy, but I’d rather be in a hospital room with a nice view of the Lake.
And shouldn’t the student be able to make this choice? Even when we have the great provision of having DPS drive us to the hospital, because the burden of the hospital bill comes upon us and only us, shouldn’t we be able to decide on the hospital where we stay?
Ultimately, this issue comes down to convenience vs. economy. Although Marquette students requiring emergency assistance may opt for the closest hospital option, it is important for them to realize that this decision is one costing them more money than their alternatives.
by Anna Ceragioli