Fees and Need
Inequities have long plagued the University's hygiene and health insurance set-up, and it is gratifying that at last the Administration is seriously considering plans to revise the whole system of medical care. In these plans, however, the University must not over-look what should be the central principle behind a medical insurance plan: the provision of not only the broadest, but also the most equitable, coverage without any substantial increase in the present $30 a year medical fee.
Obviously the best of all possible plans would be one that covers every student completely for all bills incurred due to medical care during the school year. The present fee covers only fourteen days per term in Stillman. But estimates received by the Hygiene Department indicate that the University would have to charge around sixty dollars a year in order to operate the increased facilities required by such a plan. This increase would add far too much to the financial burden of many students, and for this reason--and no other--it would be a poor system.
Thereore, complete medical insurance will have to be allotted on some sort of priority system. The University already has several such systems in operation, but they are curiously unrealistic and contradictory. Scholarship holders are entitled to operations and ward space in Still-man or other hospitals without charge, while other students receive only fourteen days in Stillman and a checkup whenever they do not feel well. Furthermore, major sport athletes receive, free of charge, complete care for injuries sustained in the course of their manly pursuits, while only in special cases are minor sport athletes accorded such treatments and other athletes none at all.
What the University at times seems to realize, but what it for the most part ignores, is that the governing principle in its granting of free medical care should be financial need. The holding of a scholarship is not in itself a sound criterion for such awards: Many students who lack the necessary grades to qualify for scholarship aid of any sort could be financially set back just as seriously by long hospitalization as any man who has financial aid.
Even more superficial is the present distinction between major and minor sport athletes. There is no reason why such a distinction should exist, except perhaps for the fact that major sports are usually the money-making ones. Minor sports require as much time and egort as major ones, and the present policy is unjustifiably discriminatory.
The fact is that neither major nor minor sport athletes should receive free medical care for injuries unless such care would be an unnecessary financial burden on them. It is ridiculous for the University to pay the medical expenses of a wealthy football player and it is just as ridiculous to pay those of the wealthy lacrosse player. The argument that these men should be recompensed for the time they spend practicing for the glory--both spiritual and financial--of Harvard falls flat if one considers that athletics exist primarily for the benefit of the participant. Athletes generally play because they like to play.
What should be done is to pay the hospital expenses of those students--major sport athletes, minor sport athletes, House athletes, and just plain students--who would be seriously affected if they had to pay large hospital fees. Compensation for their medical bills should be awarded on the basis of financial aid statements much like those required of applicants for scholarships. This plan would relieve the University of the necessity to pay for the medical expenses of financially well-off major sport athletes and would also end the need for House collections to aid badly-hurt but needy intramural athletes.