As of last weekend, 23 students have been transported for over-consumption of alcohol over the course of this year. While a transport is often a one-night ordeal for the student involved, the costs incurred—which often add up to hundreds of dollars—can become a financial burden that lingers long after the weekend is over.
In each instance, the student is charged for the cost of the transport and for emergency care. On top of that, the College mandates that students go to three counseling sessions with licensed drug and alcohol counselor Geno Ring, a disciplinary measure that will set them back $300.
One upperclassman who was transported in fall 2010 said that the bill for the transport—ambulance fee and medical care combined—was "upwards of $500." A first year who was transported earlier this year said that his Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance covered most of the cost, and that he was only personally responsible for $100. Both students spoke about their experiences on the condition of anonymity.
According to Brunswick Fire Chief Ken Brillant, most calls from the College for rescue services cost a base rate of $530 plus mileage at $11 per mile. Brillant calls these transports Advanced Life Support calls, which involve putting someone on an I.V., heart monitor, or medications. Substance-related transports fall under this category, and cost $541 total to Parkview Adventist Medical Center and $596 to Mid Coast Hospital from campus.
Tim Foster, dean of student affairs, said that the College's insurance policy covers 100 percent of all ambulance costs up to $400. If a student has Bowdoin health insurance, then he or she will only be responsible for costs exceeding that amount. The total bill that students receive after being transported can vary widely depending on what kind of care they needed in the emergency department.
Tory Ryden, director of community relations at Parkview, wrote in an email to the Orient that the cost of an emergency visit to the hospital could range from "a low of $650 to a high of $1,000," depending on the situation. Though most insurance providers cover a significant portion of the cost, Ryden wrote that students end up paying about $250 if they are discharged from the emergency room, and $500 if they are admitted for a short period of observation.
Ryden added that Katy Longley, treasurer of the College, is currently negotiating with Parkview administrators to lower the cost of student care.
"We recently met with their business office to see if they would lower their charges to students," wrote Longley in an email to the Orient. "Our negotiations are ongoing."
Most insurance providers do not cover the $300 fee for three sessions with Geno Ring, which is one of the mandatory disciplinary measures for students who have been transported. The student is personally responsible for the cost, and while loans are available to those who cannot pay out of pocket, Foster said students are expected to work to pay back the borrowed money. Students with Bowdoin insurance who seek reimbursement for the service would only have to pay $30 per session, or $90 in total.
All Bowdoin students are entitled to two free one-hour sessions with Ring if their visit is not mandated by a dean. In other words, the school will subsidize two visits to Ring if a student goes on their own accord, but students must pay the full price if they have been transported or put on social probation for alcohol or drug use.
One senior who was forced to visit Ring said he thought the $300 cost and the counseling sessions were "useless." Another senior, who had to visit Ring based on the terms of his social probation, said that mandating the counseling sessions across the board made it seem like the College was "taking action for the sake of taking action...they get to pocket money and look like they are doing moral good."
"I don't think the College should have to bear the expense of someone drinking copious amounts of alcohol," said Foster. "That's part of what students have to take responsibility for."
The first year who was transported said that he found that the counseling sessions with Ring were helpful.
"I think it's a necessary consequence that it's not free for the people who are transported," he said. "The entire point is like a wake-up call. If it's financially that you're going to be awakened, then so be it."
Ring estimated that over the course of a year, about 20 to 30 students are sent to him by the dean's office, whereas 10 to 15 students are self-referred.
Regarding the cost of his services, Ring said, "I've had students for whom that has been a hardship. I've negotiated payment plans...this is not meant to be punitive, this is a health issue and we want you to get service. I'm not going to turn people away if it's a hardship."
Ring said that because he is not employed by the College, he has some leeway to help negotiate with students who cannot afford his $100 fee per session.
"I am an independent businessman, so it gives me a little leverage to do that," said Ring.
Foster noted that the College sends students to Ring in part because the Counseling Center does not employ a substance abuse specialist. Ring said that the policy allows students to seek help from a different substance abuse specialist in the area, so long as they receive some form of counseling.
"From my perspective, all of it is designed to make the person think...you don't have to be an alcoholic or drug addict to have life-changing consequences" from drinking or drugs, said Ring.
The combined cost of an ambulance transport, emergency care, and counseling sessions with Ring can bring the cost of a transport as high as $1,896 before insurance.
Having paid fees well over $1,000 after being transported, one sophomore said that the bills made her "feel like I was constantly paying for things...there was a constant reminder that it happened."
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article reported that Bowdoin insurance covers 100% of all transports costs up to $400. In fact, the school's insurance plan covers all costs up to $400 for an ambulance alone. Additionally, the article reported that the College insurance does not cover any part of the mandatory $300 cost of alcohol and drug counseling. Those with Bowdoin insurance who seek reimbursement for counseling would have to pay 20% of the $100 charge ($20) plus the $10 co-pay cost for a total of $30 per session or $90 total.