Monday, June 14, 2021

Henry: Open Wide — Say AAARRGGHH


The Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”) recently announced that its analysis of the Affordable Care Act revealed the federal government will spend $50,000 for every person who gets healthcare under the ACA.

I also read that the CBO and other sources predict that medical costs will continue to rise every year. To see what the situation will be in the future, I hopped into my combination document shredder/time machine and set it for the year 2025. In a flash, I was transported into the future, arriving at the office of my family physician and longtime friend, Dr. D. T. Munchausen.

After pulling up my financials on her computer screen, the receptionist asked me a number of questions about my net worth, and current and long-term liabilities. She finally got around to my medical and personal history, which I did not mind answering until she asked if I “suffered with acute angina,” which I thought was too personal to answer. She shrugged and entered a twenty-three-digit code to open the thick steel door to the examining rooms. D.T.’s nurse ushered me into room number 847 and quickly bandaged my left calf to stop the bleeding resulting from a slight glitch in my document shredder/time machine.

Five hours later, D.T. entered the room. Realizing I had not seen him in ten years, I stood and gave him a man-hug, carefully avoiding any lower body contact, because you just never know.

D.T.: Great seeing you, man. You haven’t aged a bit. Where’ve you been?

Henry: Just hangin’ around. How goes it?

D.T.: Busy. Since the Affordable Care Act was fully implemented no one is going to medical school any more. I’ve got about 90,000 patients.

Henry: Wow! How do you see them all?

D.T.: We prioritize, ranking patients according to their net worth. I see my multi-billionaires on a regular basis. Multi-millionaires—about once every three years, unless there’s an emergency. If the condition is life-threatening, we usually get them into the office or hospital within 6 to 8 weeks.

Henry: But everything is covered by the government, right?

D.T.: Well, it hasn’t exactly worked out like that. For someone in your tax bracket, the ACA only covers you for pregnancy, left leg amputation, or a sex change operation. Everything else is insurance or cash. This week I have a special on spleen vents. You can get galvanized for $50,000 or PVC pipe for $30,000. The pipes vent your spleen at shoulder level with a cute little cap that you can have monogrammed for another $5,000.

Henry: Here’s my insurance card.

D.T.: Blue Cross went under nine years ago. You have any cash?

Henry: How much is this office visit?

D.T.: $15,000 if you pay cash. $25,000 if you put it on a credit card.

Henry: I only have thirteen dollars.

D.T.: Give me that, your watch and those cool running shoes. Open wide.

Henry: Aaarrgghh.

D.T.: That’ll be $500 for the tongue depressor.

Henry: Hold on. You didn’t ask me if I wanted a tongue depressor. I could have stuck my tongue far enough out without it. I could have brought my own.

D.T.: Government regs say you can’t use your own. There was a big lobbying effort by the tongue depressor industry a couple of years back. We have to use them for everything now, including your prostate exam.

Henry: Uh-oh.

D.T.: Anything bothering you? Aches or pains?

Henry: I’ve had an occasional sharp pain in my side.

D.T.: If I have to hospitalize you for an appendectomy, it’ll run you about $600,000 if you get the XL package with all the options. If we do it outpatient, you can get by for about $375,000.

Henry: Everything is so expensive. I guess middle class people just go without medical care.

D.T.: Right. And that has an upside. Mortality rate is off the charts, which results in less traffic on the freeways and no problem getting a tee time or a dinner reservation at a decent restaurant. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Henry: Except for the people dying.

D.T.: Aw, what the hell. They’re dead. Before you go, let me get you to sign this.

Henry: This is a promissory note for $1 million and giving you a lien on my heart, lungs, liver, and kidney.

D.T.: Right. Don’t leave the state. We might need your liver.

Henry: But I’m using it.

D.T.: Don’t be so stingy. I can get good money for your parts. Now, bend over.

When I saw D.T. reach for a tongue depressor the size of a railroad cross tie, I bolted out of his office and jumped back into my document shredder/time machine in the parking lot. Within minutes I was back in the present. I checked my body and found everything intact, except for my left ear, which was missing. I looked down and saw it in a bloody mess on the floor.

Using the five second rule, I picked up my ear and SuperGlued it back on. I can’t hear out of it any more, but it holds my eyeglasses in place.

So, I got that going for me.

Mike-HenryMichael Henry is a contributor and can be reached at A graduate of Tulane and Virginia Law School, Henry published his seventh novel, Finding Ishmael, in April, 2014.