THIS IS WHERE THE
PHOTO GATHER WON’T
LET ME UPLOAD
From a column that will appear in December 2050 newspapers:
Now that the Tea Party has solidified its control over both houses of Congress, your intrepid reporter has investigated what effects this might have on Marin County residents — specifically regarding the question of healthcare.
Here is an excerpt from my interview with the new speaker of the House of Representatives, Grover Quisling.
ME: Speaker Quisling, thank you for your time and congratulations on your election. You received 296 votes, all from Tea Party members named Grover Quisling. Are you all clones?
GROVER: We are all related to Mr. Norquist, our idealogue mentor. We prefer you use the term “identical descendents” instead of clones.
ME: What is the Tea Party’s position on covering increased health care costs?
GROVER: As you know, we all took a genetic pledge to never raise taxes. That means our genes have been tweaked in such a manner that if we try to approve any tax increase we break out in hives. Instead, we will obtain the revenue necessary to cover escalating medical costs by charging for services and supplies we used to provide for free.
ME: Like what?
GROVER: Well, for example, today hospitals provide clean sheets. Laundry costs a lot and as it’s purely for the patient’s comfort and is not a medical necessity, we feel the patients should cover those costs — or have their moms pick up their sheets every night for washing. Oh, and for you bankers and hedge fund managers out there, we offer ironed sheets at a small additional cost.
Somewhat disturbed by my conversation with Speaker Quisling and the examples of the additional health care fees he proposed, I eavesdropped on a recent patient interchange with a pharmacy operating as a pilot under the proposed new rules:
PHARMACIST: Small, medium or large?
PHARMACIST: Do you want this prescription filled in small, medium, or large sizes?
PATIENT: What did the doctor say?
PHARMACIST: The doctor only says if it’s OK for you to take this drug. How much is up to you. The small size cost is $10 co-pay, medium is $20 and the large, with unlimited refills, is $40.
PATIENT: Unlimited refills?
PHARMACIST: It’s a new offer. As long as you are a patient in this hospital, you may have unlimited refills of this drug.
PATIENT: OK, I’ll go for the large.
PHARMACIST: Would you like a side of Pepto-Bismol with that?
PHARMACIST: Some patients report gastric distress when taking a large dose of this drug. If you buy the Pepto-Bismol with your prescription it’s only $14.95. Separately, it would cost $29.50. Quite a deal.
Some hospitals are taking some pages from the fast food industry’s playbook. General Mercy Hospital in Sheboygan, Wis. is currently experimenting with an outpatient drive-in window to reduce costs. Let’s listen in as a patient pulls up in his car in front of a 4-foot papier-mâché statue of a bespectacled man wearing a long white coat and stethoscope. He has a notepad and pencil in his hand. His mouth is wide open and holds a speaker.
DOC-IN-THE-BOX: Good morning. How may I help you?
DRIVER: I have this pain in my stomach.
DOC: What did you have for dinner last night?
DRIVER: A couple of pepperoni pizzas.
DOC: Did you have beer?
DRIVER: What’s pizza without beer?
DOC: A happy stomach. You’re in luck; we have Pepto-Bismol on sale for only $14.95 when purchased with a prescription of your choice.
This Week’s Ponder: Is bearophobia (the fear of losing stock portfolio value) covered by health insurance?