Thompson: Requiring a doctor’s note is classist

Madison Thompson

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

When school districts, professors, or employers require a doctor’s note to excuse you from your activities, they’re reinforcing a classist system that evidently favors those who have access to medical care.

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Sometimes there isn’t anything a doctor can do. If you know you have a cold or the typical sore throat and runny nose, you shouldn’t have to have your doctor confirm your obvious discomfort. You know yourself and your body better than anyone.

If you just need to take a few days to rest and recover, there should be no questions asked.

Of course, employers and academics worry about the small percentage of those that take advantage of a “sick” day when they’re really just trying to get out of doing more work. This concern is unwarranted when you think about it in different terms.

There will always be people who take advantage, but we shouldn’t expect that of everyone.

Taking time off to go to the doctor when you don’t need to is also a huge loss of productivity. Whoever has to take time off to go to the doctor is wasting not only their time, but the doctor’s as well.

This requirement puts more burdens on people at a vulnerable time, people who are potentially already living a vulnerable existence.

Seeking medical care when it is not needed should raise some eyebrows. According to Health Systems Tracker, the United States spends a disproportionate amount of money on healthcare for an industrialized nation and we shouldn’t be putting any more pressure on the system than necessary.

Requiring students or employees to seek out validation for things they already know is just that: unnecessary.

When employers don’t provide medical insurance, but require a doctor’s note for an employee who calls in sick, this can be economically crippling. 

According to a CNBC report, medical bills are the largest cause of bankruptcy in the United States., and nearly 700,000 people go broke because of them. Similarly, statistics from 2017 indicate that nearly 12 percent of the population was uninsured.

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It would be more beneficial for employers to let employees stay home as opposed to making them take more time out of their day to make a doctor’s appointment, drive there, and wait who knows how long, just to get a slip of paper that confirms what they already knew: they’re sick.

Requiring a doctor’s note for excuse does not take into consideration other social factors that might stop someone from seeking medical care. It assumes everyone has equal access to a system built strictly for profit. 

Assuming the playing field is level for everyone is classist.

Some people might not have reliable transportation, or can’t afford to pay the cost out of pocket. Maybe they have kids they need to arrange supervision for, which is another task in itself.

Some on campus might argue that not having insurance is not a valid reason to miss class or work because Colorado State does offer that option for students. However, if you can’t afford insurance from a third party, odds are you can’t afford to pay almost $3,500 a year for the Student Health Insurance Plan offered by CSU.

Forcing a student to disclose their financial situation when they don’t want to, can be humiliating. Moreover, if a student doesn’t have university or third-party insurance and CSU finds out, they may try to force you to enroll regardless of whether a student can afford it. 

Of course there are instances where obtaining a doctor’s note would be beneficial, such as long-term absenteeism or in the case of an outbreak. But requiring a doctor’s note should be the exception, not the rule.

Madison Thompson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online @heyymadison