Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," mindful that Cernnunos reigns in this dark time of the year that plunges so many of us into gloom.
Last month the big HMO Cigna bought out an insurance group in the Midwest. Price tag: $1.5 billion.
The latest data available on Cigna's CEO, from 2005, listed his salary as almost $14 million and his unexercised stock options at $15 million.
In the meantime, a 17-year-old girl in Los Angeles died this week when Cigna refused an experimental treatment that might have at least lengthened her life. Or not. But the girl and her parents wanted to take every chance. Gee, some 17-year-olds are like that, you know?
This sort of thing happens with every HMO across the country, all the time. What makes this tale different is that Cigna reversed its decision after the hospital nurses staged a protest rally on the patient's behalf, and the story made the news.
Alas, Cigna approval for the operation was too late. The girl died.
In a public statement, Cigna offered its condolences and prayers to the family. One assumes the prayers will be directed at God, from whom all blessings flow.
I have some questions.
The first: Do HMOs exist to promote health and save lives, or are they soulless corporations out to maximize their profit margins at the expense of their sickest clients?
The second: When did we become a nation where the insurance companies get to decide how patients are treated, rather than the doctors? Because I'm here to tell you that my doctor of many years retired early because of this very issue. He was not a man who liked being told what he could and couldn't do.
The third: Why have doctors become pawns in this game? Why don't they get up and stand up?
The fourth: Where are those who advocate Right to Life when real money is on the line? It's fine and dandy to agitate for Terry Sciavo, who had no chance at all of recovery. But a 17-year-old with a slim chance, if she got expensive experimental care? Not a peep from the Right to Life crowd. You'd think they'd have taken up a collection and paid the cost of the operation themselves. Didn't that born child have a Right to Life, if she wanted it? Shouldn't the Right to Lifers be challenging Cigna even as we speak? These people seem to have some political clout.
Here's my final beef: Why do HMOs put out money for physical illnesses but refuse to pay for mental health care? Please don't tell me that they do pay for mental health care. Have you ever met an HMO psychiatrist? I haven't, and not for lack of trying. Don't these greedy bastards realize that our streets and prisons are full of citizens who, had they been able to get mental health care, would be productive members of society? Mental illness is a physical disorder. It's not something you can "get over" by "pulling yourself together."
Recently my husband's union had to issue bad news: Beginning in 2008, we will have to pay a monthly stipend along with our co-pays, for ourselves and each of our children. The union president said: "If you want to keep these costs down, don't go to the doctor."
We at "The Gods Are Bored" wish all HMOs a Merry Christmas. Have a seat in our waiting room. Cernnunos will be with you shortly.