Obamacare, Revisited

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Norman Rockwell Dr. painting


I do not love thee, Doctor Fell;

The reason why, I cannot tell,

But this I know and know full well,

I do not love thee, Doctor Fell.

Attributed to Tom Brown (satirical poet, 1662-1704)


I take pride in my willingness to admit when I have made a mistake.

(This is actually nothing more than cold comfort: when you make as many mistakes as I do, you better learn to derive satisfaction from admitting it. It’s like becoming a connoisseur of calf leather because your foot is in your mouth on such a regular basis.)

I have made no secret of the fact that I consider Barack Obama to be, hands down, the worst president we have ever had, a unique and singular (at least I sincerely hope he will be singular) combination of arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence. I extended that to his signature legislation, Obamacare, which I considered—and still consider—nothing more than a means of getting the wealthy to pay for the medical expenses of the poor while the government takes the credit, a thinly disguised means of transferring wealth from the productive and hardworking segment of society to those who are not productive, whether for lack of hard work or simply because they are misfortunate through no fault of their own.

Recent events, however, have caused me to re-think my attitude. Not about the real purpose of Obamacare, but about the validity of that purpose. After all, maybe taking money from the rich and giving it to the poor isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just depends on which rich you’re taking from.

Twenty-five years ago, Darleen was kicked in the chest by a horse. It stopped her heart, and she was clinically dead for about three minutes. She spent a week in intensive care in the cardiac ward of a local hospital, and when they released her we were told she might have trouble down the road.

About ten years ago she began going to a famous cardiologist in Los Angeles. Annually, she has spent much time and we have spent much money for batteries of tests and little concrete information. This year, after unanswered questions during her annual meeting, unanswered questions to a follow-up letter, unanswered questions to a follow-up FAX, and more silence to the follow-up to the FAX that was the follow-up to the letter that was the follow-up to the office visit, I made another appointment for her and we drove down together.

We came home no wiser than we were when we left, and with the bitter taste in our mouths that comes from being made to feel a fool; specifically fools wasting the valuable time of our betters.

The next morning we sent a FAX to the records department requesting her entire file, and started our search for a new cardiologist.

Two days later we received an eleven-by eight inch envelope from the doctor’s office, and I marveled at the speed with which he had sent Darleen’s files and at how compact eight years’ worth of information was.

Well, not exactly. It was a come-on for, “An Enhanced Access Membership Program.”

Huh? Let me get this straight. If my insurance company is paying indecent sums of money, and I’m supplementing that out of my own pocket to the tune of what a new pick-up used to cost only a few years ago, shouldn’t I have access to my medical provider? I mean, isn’t that sort of, like, kind of what I’m paying for?

Apparently not. According to the Enhanced Access Membership Program brochure, if I want to actually lay eyes on the Great Man, and if I should have the unspeakable temerity to actually ask questions, questions, forsooth!, I better be prepared to pay extra. Specifically, I better be prepared to choose between their Silver Plan, their Gold Plan, or—oh, breathless excitement!—their Diamond Plan!

Well, it’s for Darleen, and diamonds are a girl’s best friend, so what the hell. I took a look at what the Diamond Plan offers me for a paltry pittance of $7500 per annum. That’s $7500 per annum on top of what they already get out of the insurance company, and on top of what we have to pay out of our own pockets to make up the difference between his bill and what the insurance company is willing to pay.

This is what we would get, and I’m not making any of this up:

  1. Our physician’s personal cell phone number for direct calls 24/7!

For $7500 a year, I’m calling him for little tête-à-têtes whenever I have insomnia. “Hey, Doc. How about them Packers? Not so hot this year.”

  1. Direct 24-hour, 7-day a week access to our personal physician by calling, text-messaging, or e-mail, at our choice!

You know, I’ve never gotten into texting. I don’t even own a cell phone, but by golly, now might be an ideal time to start learning. “Doc. R U sleeping?”

  1. Night and weekend availability of our personal physician!

For $7500 a year, does that mean he’ll drive the two-and-a-half hours out here to make a house call? Okie dokie. Will he do windows?

  1. Personal communication from our physician to discuss all tests and laboratory results!

Well, see, I sort of thought that should just come automatically with standard, unenhanced health care, but maybe you mean it includes his actually saying something beyond, “How long is this going to take because I’ve only got fifteen minutes?” (That’s a quote, by the way.)

  1. Preferred reserved two VIP parking spaces in the West Tower Parking Structure (subject to availability—must call ahead to reserve and confirm)!

Thank goodness! I just couldn’t stand to park in that tacky East Tower with all the unwashed hoi polloi. I assume that for $7500 a year the good doctor will personally sweep out my VIP parking space, and maybe put out a red carpet to keep my boots clean on my way to the elevator.

  1. Personal reception at our VIP parking space to ease our visit!

Cool. And if the personalized reception includes champagne on ice, that would indeed ease our visit.

  1. Parking is validated to all visits to the office!

I should bloody well hope so. Given what parking costs in LA these days, that perk alone is almost worth the $7500.

  1. EKG Wallet Card—new and improved!

I should hope so again. I wouldn’t want one of those old, tacky, unimproved cards. I mean, they’re just so, you know, yesterday.

  1. Dedicated phone lines with dramatically accelerated response!

A dedicated phone line? Isn’t that what you get automatically when you have the phone company install a line into your home or office? There is no such thing as a trunk line anymore.

There’s a whole bunch more along the same lines that we would get for our $7500 a year, the sort of stuff you used to get back in the old days just as standard service for paying your bill. Clearly times have changed, so maybe Obamacare isn’t such a bad thing after all. If it’ll take, oh, let’s say $7500 a year out of the pocket of some arrogant jerk and put said $7500 into my pocket, why I’m all for Obamacare.

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