SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
June 25, 2017

Wake Up and Smell the Coffins

 

Convinced my dissolving skeleton was caused by the anti-seizure medication I’d been taking half my life—skeletal dissolution being one of it’s long-term side effects—my neurologist sent me to see another neurologist in his office. This new one was an epilepsy specialist, and the thinking was this new guy, more than anyone, might be able to decide if I’d be better served by some other, newer anti-seizure med. You know, one that wouldn’t turn my bones to dust.

            It took me a couple of months to get an appointment, and once I did this new doctor started asking all sorts of impossible questions, like, “what were the circumstances surrounding your very first seizure?”

            “Um, what?” I tried to explain that it was thirty years ago, and that I had no idea they were seizures until they were diagnosed as such two years later, after a string of supposed specialists told me the episodes were caused by everything from low blood sugar to hyperventilation to demonic possession. It took two years of nonsensical diagnoses before someone decided to run an MRI and spotted the scar tissue on my temporal lobe. So I don’t remember precisely when the first one took place or the circumstances surrounding it.

            But the questions kept coming, which I tried to answer best as I could. He talked very fast, and usually started talking fast again when I was halfway through my attempted answers. In the end, given I hadn’t had a major seizure in almost twenty years, he decided the drug I was on was doing a good enough job, so why fuck with it? Besides, he said, a dissolving skeleton could be caused by most anything, and there was no reason to go blaming everything on drugs.

            So that was that. While he had me there, though, he thought it might be a good idea to send me for another extended EEG and another MRI, since I hadn’t had either in ten years. That last MRI in particular seemed to show evidence of premature brain atrophy. Best to keep tabs on that sort of thing.

            I immediately flashed forward to our next meeting. “Well, I have some good news and some bad news,” he’d say as he scanned through the images. “Good news is, the lesion’s gone. The bad news is, so is the rest of your brain.” It would certainly explain a whole lot.

            Before I left the neurologist’s office that afternoon. The secretary told me they’d have to contact my insurance company to get approval for the MRI, so I should hold off on making that appointment until I heard back from them. That was no sweat—I’d been through the drill before. Thanks to Morgan’s job, I was on a fairly decent insurance plan, and wasn’t that worried. Nope, no sweat at all.

            The phone rang a week later. When I picked up, a robot on the other end informed me it was calling about the requested procedure. Okay then. It went on to ask a series of computerized questions to confirm I was indeed who I was claiming to be. It took a while and involved punching in a lot of numbers. Finally convinced, the robot told me the request had been denied. It sure took some doing to get around to the bad news. When I picked up the phone initially, the robot simply should’ve said, “You’re shit outta luck, chum.” And left it at that. So much more efficient that way. It offered no explanation, saying only a letter would be mailed to both me and the neurologist.

            “But wait—“ I wanted to say, futile as it was when dealing with a robot, “We’re talking about my shrinking brain, here!” But it was too late.

            I still don’t know officially why they refused to cover the MRI, but I have a pretty clear idea, and it’s not simply because they hate me and everything I stand for.

            The moment those beet-faced earwigs in Congress began debating the plan to dismantle the Affordable Care Act in order to replace it with a new system that would immediately deprive an estimated twenty million Americans of health insurance, things started getting weird. Even though the initial effort failed miserably thanks to assorted hilarious bumblings and revelations, the fact there were still plans in the works to revamp the proposed program and shove it through a couple of months down the line only propagated the weirdness. Two days after the initial debate began, and half an hour after being informed by his doctor he’d need surgery to repair two torn Achilles tendons, a friend of mine received an email from his insurance company informing him he was being dropped from their roster, effective immediately. No explanation was given, just a smiling Fuck You. Not long afterward, when Morgan tried to set up an appointment with a new doctor, she was told the doctor was no longer accepting any insurance apart from Medicare. Other friends reported they had been dropped from their insurance plans without explanation, or had learned basic medical procedures were no longer being covered. And now I was being told I couldn’t get an update on my dwindling gray matter.

            It was becoming patently clear, and I heard this from several other sources as well, that the entire medical industry from insurance companies down to country doctors, were so freaked out by the threatened passage of a new healthcare bill they were paralyzed. No one knew what was going to happen or when. And so in response they didn’t want to go out on a limb by doing, well, anything at all until after all the hoo-hah shook itself out. Why risk accepting a new patient’s insurance when that plan might not exist six months from now? And why agree to cover an expensive (or any) procedure beforehand when you have no idea what the landscape’s gonna look like in the not too distant future?

            It strikes the more paranoid and conspiratorial part of my shrinking brain (which is a greater and greater percentage every day) that it was all part of the grand plan. It all goes hand-in-hand with proposals to cut Medicaid, disability and food-stamp programs in order to provide tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Lord knows I’m no liberal, but it was all so fucking transparent and obvious, you almost had to admire it for it’s charming lack of guile.

            The GOP healthcare bill and all those other proposals were clearly designed to eliminate as many poor, sickly, elderly and crippled people as possible from the National Teat. Useless fucking eaters is what they are, no goddamn good for anything or anyone. And with them out of the picture, there’d be more resources left over for those people who are actually worth a shit, right? More food, more oil, more air and most importantly more money. USA! USA!

            Given that the new healthcare bill’s intent was so obvious from the start, they knew it would never pass. But all was not lost, and they could still get to work on that dream of weeding out the population. No, the new act itself might be dead in the water, but you get everyone in the medical community believing it might just pass at some point any day now, they’ll go all catatonic, refusing to treat or cover those same goddamn parasites until the threat passes. You might not eliminate the millions who’d end up dying as a result of the new act’s passage, but at least we can squash a few thousand in the meantime. It’s a start, anyway. As for those other vermin who might stubbornly choose not to die of starvation or some dread untreated disease, well, the military’s gonna be buying up a bunch of new toys with all that surplus funding, so why not give them a chance to try them out? Yeah. One way or another, they seem bound and determined to kill us all, the rascals.

            My god I had no idea it was going to be this wildly entertaining.

 

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