Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Poultry-Based Health Insurance Plan

Latest Newspaper Column:
I've said it before and I'll say it again: The hardest part about writing satire these days is staying ahead of reality, in a world where -people manage to out-weird you every time.

Josh Marshall of the liberal blog Talking Points Memo found this out, to his chagrin, when he discovered a quote from Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sue Lowden, who's running against Harry Reid. In a speech, Lowden suggested that you really didn't need health insurance; you could just barter with your doctor.

"I think that bartering is really good," Lowden said. "Those doctors who you pay cash, you can barter, and that would get prices down in a hurry ... go ahead out and pay cash for whatever your medical needs are, and go ahead and barter with your doctor."

Marshall thought this was pretty risible. He reported on Lowden's statement with the snarky headline, "I Bid Three Chickens for That MRI!"

But, as it turns out, that's exactly what Lowden was talking about. "You know," she earnestly told a radio interviewer a few days later, "before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor."

At first I thought, well, that's a Republican for you: The solution to the crisis in health insurance is to go back to some fantasy of the past. And you want to know what the sad thing is? By Nevada standards, she's the moderate Republican.

But then I started thinking. Hey, what the heck do I know? So I called up my doctor's office.

"I need to come in for my yearly checkup," I said.

"Sure," the nice lady on the phone replied. "We can make you an appointment."

"Great. Where do you want me to send the chickens?"

There was a pause. "What?" she said finally.

"I've decided I don't want to file this on my insurance. I want to pay the doctor in chickens."

"I'm not sure I understand. Did you say...chickens?"

"Sure. Just like my grandpa used to do. Or so I've heard. OK, last time, my checkup cost, what, a couple hundred bucks? With blood work and everything?"

"Sir ..."

"And chickens are going for ... let's see. This farm report I found online says about 84 cents a pound, and the average weight is about 12 pounds, so that's a little over 10 bucks per bird, divide that into 200 ... Wow! Hope the doctor has a big yard."

"Mr. Rhoades ..."

"I'm not sure I can get all of them in the station wagon. Does he mind if I make more than one trip?"

"We don't accept payment in chickens!"

"You don't?"

"Of course not! No one does!"

"How about turkeys?"

She hung up on me. Some people just have trouble thinking outside the box. I guess we won't be returning to those wonderful days my grandparents knew, when highly trained professionals would cheerfully agree to be paid in poultry.

As of this writing, the Lowden campaign continues to stand by their guns - sort of. When the folks from Talking Points Memo called the campaign, a spokesman insisted, "Bartering with your doctor is not a new concept. There have been numerous reports as to how negotiating with your doctor is an option, and doctors have gone on the record verifying this."

It seems as if Ms. Lowden and/or her spokespeople have confused "bartering" with "bargaining." Which is a lot more realistic. I mean, I know my negotiating skills are at their peak when I have a fever or I'm wracked with periodic spasms of projectile vomiting.

So, all you Republicans and tea partiers, the next time you're sick, toss that Medicare card in the dustbin. You don't need any government-sponsored health-care plan! Remember the ways of your hardy forbears. Be ready to throw off that logy, sick feeling, rise from your bed and haggle with your doctor over the cost of treatment, and then bargain with your pharmacist over the cost of your meds.

And bring some chickens. They're sure to love you for it.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks. That's all I need to say. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

As I recall from when I had my heart attack, the primary thought (when I was thinking, vast tracts of that time are forever lost to me) was "Who cares how much it costs, PLEASE KEEP ME FROM DYING!!"

Who knows what might have happened if my husband hadn't been there to make decisions. He wasn't into negotiation at that point, either. We would have had to deliver an entire chicken *farm* afterwards, too.

My question is, when did lobotomy become mandatory for elected officials? There is no other explanation for this madness.


LongHairedWeirdo said...

I have actually had relatively good luck bargaining while racked with projectile vomiting. It's all in how you aim....

However, when it comes to bargaining for health care, it kinda depends on knowing what you really *need*. For example, I have a contractor offering to sell me brand new siding - top quality stuff! - to cover the pony wall on my new foundation after it's built. Now, I know that the siding doesn't add support. If I buy the cheap stuff, I'll have to replace it sooner, and it'll be a pain in the butt. Still, I know what I can afford, I know what I really need, so I can make an informed decision.

Deciding on a new furnace is a bit harder - is a 95% efficient two stage furnace really going to pay for itself in 5 years?

Deciding on medical treatments is even harder - sure, those old fashioned antidepressants are dirt cheap - uh, but didn't they used to kill people? You know, just on occasion and all? How big is that risk? And, how do I value the risk of a potentially fatal heart arrhythmia versus the much higher price of modern antidepressants, versus just living a life of misery if I'm locked in a major depressive episode?

Seems like I'd need to be a doctor to know that stuff. Hey, maybe I can hire a doctor to give me medical information!

Oh. Heh. That's what we're talking about, isn't it? The high price of hiring doctors.