I am a co-captain of the Ethics Bowl Team at my school, a competition team that debates a wide range of cases concerning ethical dilemmas: some about public policy, science, social issues, and even everyday decisions. One of our most seemingly simple cases last year actually proved quite interesting. The ‘dilemma’ in that case was about whether or not a young man should use his friend’s school ID to gain access to that school’s pool and athletic facilities. The friend never used the membership, but the fee for it was included in his tuition fees. Many of us agreed that this one-for-one switch was permissible: it likely would not hurt any people or the school, but could increase the happiness and physical health of the young man while getting the friend’s ‘money’s worth’ of his college tuition.
What I have learned most from my involvement in Ethics Bowl is that it is really easy to oversimplify a case. There are often many factors involved in these complex cases that make coming to a conclusion challenging. In this case, the issue of liability and insurance proved to be the element that made this case unique.
By using his friend’s membership, this young man would put the school at financial and legal risk in case an accident happened, potentially undermining the insurance that the institution has purchased. This additional perspective lead us to believe that using his friend’s ID was not okay because it would make the institution unknowingly assume more risk than it was insured for. While this could potentially have many disastrous effects of lawsuits and liability problems, our conclusion became simple and clear: the man should not use his friend’s membership because doing so would negate the value and purpose of insurance. From learning more about insurance through this Ethics Bowl case, I began thinking about its role in my everyday life.
Insurance is important and valuable for a multitude of reasons, but the reason I will share is the most personal to me. After begging for many years, my siblings and I got a dog, Roscoe, when I was in third grade. Roscoe is a very small Shih Tzu with brown and white hair. He not only is the cutest, happiest dog I have ever met (not that I am biased), but he brings tremendous joy to my family members, especially my mom. Roscoe is truly like a child to her, and she treats him like he actually is one when she talks to him like he is a baby or toddler.
It was soon after he came into our family, though, that he developed numerous health problems. Besides having to take many pills each week for various other ailments, Roscoe develops skin rashes and ear infections many times a year. Recently, after having symptoms and then undergoing a lot of testing, we were told he has heart problems and that he will need to take medications for that as well.
While his illnesses are very worrisome, what’s even scarier is the thought of not being able to afford his doctor’s visits, tests, and treatments. Luckily, my dad purchased pet health insurance for Roscoe when we got him 9 years ago. Many families who don’t have pet insurance can be faced with tough decisions when their pet needs medical help: often medications and procedures are extremely expensive out-of-pocket, but euthanization means losing a loved family member. Not having insurance often means having to put down a sick pet, and even pets with treatable but recurrent illnesses like Roscoe. I am so thankful that Roscoe is insured, because when he isn’t feeling well, all we have to worry about is giving him his pills that we dip in peanut butter or wrap in turkey.
Insurance is unquantifiably important in keeping my dog alive. Not only am I relieved that when my parents tell me he is sick again that I know he will be able to get better, but it reassures me that my family won’t have to choose between high veterinary bills and keeping Roscoe alive and sitting on my mom’s lap. Insurance allows my family to focus on what is most important when one of us is sick: helping them get better. Through applying the knowledge I have gained through Ethics Bowl to my everyday life, I have fostered a deep appreciation for the peace of mind that insurance brings to me and my family and for, through insurance, the ability to obtain medical treatment for Roscoe.
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