I write all day at work. Lucky! you might say. And yeah, it’s the kind of work I’m good at. But it’s not that simple.

You see, I work for a health insurance company, and my job is to write correspondence, all day long, letting doctors and hospitals know why we’re not paying them for treatment–or not paying them as much as they thought we would be.

There are all kinds of reasons for why a medical provider might not get paid. They didn’t jump through the hoops of getting the treatment authorized. They did not sign a contract with us. Our medical experts have reviewed the treatment and deemed it to be experimental.

I can take some slight comfort in the fact that most of the time, when the insurance coverage is denied, the provider is required to write the charges off–so they are not allowed to bill the denied amount to the patient. Still, I’m sure the extra costs are passed on in one form or another.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, just to let you know that I am, in fact, what Sarah Palin and the Tea Party warned you about back when they were screaming about Obamacare. I am the bureaucrat who stands between you and your health care.

Of course, Republicans are strangely silent about people like me. Apparently, the fact that I’m getting paid for my health care denials by a private corporation rather than the government makes them more acceptable. On their end, medical providers have to create entire departments to deal with insurance billing and authorization rules, time and money which isn’t being spent on treating patients. Once again, though, the same conservatives who abhor extra government regulations are very capable of turning a blind eye to those same regulations when they are created in the name of private profit.

The truth is, health care costs will need to be controlled, no matter what the system in place. If we ever do have a single payer system, it will be funded with taxpayer money, and that taxpayer money should be treated with respect. We will still have to determine that the treatment being prescribed is reasonable, and that providers aren’t recommending unnecessary procedures (and by the way, providers trying to charge patients for fraudulent or ineffective treatment is something which happens frequently in our for-profit health care system). Republicans try to paint a scary picture of a single payer system in which you will be restricted from getting the care you want, whereas they claim that in a privatized health care system you have the freedom to choose any doctor and treatment you like. That is simply not true. Sure, you are free to choose any service you like–if you can pay the sky-high uninsured costs for it, which the vast majority of people can’t. You need health insurance to help pay for your care, and when you have insurance, the insurance company restricts what care you can get.

Of course, in our system the very wealthy do have the freedom to pursue whatever kind of medical treatment they want–and travel to get it wherever they like–and these are really the only people the conservatives in Congress care about, anyway.

My fundamental point is that single payer health care is nothing to be scared of. Your health care options are not going to be any more restricted than they are now, and you will be able to get treated for your illness or injury without having to go bankrupt in the process. Not a bad idea at all.

Take it from a health insurance bureaucrat.

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The Professor winced when he got out of his flight capsule.  He had to keep reminding himself of how crucial his assignment was, that every little bit counted.  No matter how hopeless it seemed.

“Remember, you’re doing sacred work, Henrik,” he muttered under his breath.

A rag-tag crowd of natives was already beginning to gather, gawking at his ship. A few of them cheered and applauded, but most just stared, stone-faced.

Naomi bounded out to meet him.  She looked energetic as ever, no matter how much human misery she witnessed on a daily basis.

“Thank you for agreeing to come here, sir,” she said after hugging him. “This is a rough area.”

“Rough areas are my job,”  he replied, his Swedish accent making the word “job” softer. Not all of his colleagues at World United agreed that the charity missions to Merka were worthwhile. He couldn’t blame them.  Visiting a place like New York wasn’t too bad–it was quaint with all the red brick, and the traffic-clogged streets and old-fashioned subways, but one still felt connected to civilization.  Out here, though….

“What part of Virginia are we in again?”  he whispered to Naomi.

“Western Virginia, sir,”  she whispered back.

The Merkans continued to eye him with suspicion, but they also started quietly lining up, knowing that a World United flight meant food and aid packages for them.  It was a heart-wrenching sight: a long line of silent, ragged figures, pretending to be too proud to care about the hand-out they were waiting for.

But Naomi was beaming at him. “We’ve got something very special lined up for you today, sir.”

He gave her a weary smile.  She led him carefully down the steps from the landing pad, and then down a narrow, uneven sidewalk, manoeuvering him past a large pothole.  On the other side of the street was a row of the typical small shacks Merkans lived in, holes covered with blue tarp, walls stained by the smoke from the town factory.  He could sense the residents peering at him from their doorways, but they were blocked from approaching him by a mix of local police and World United security.

They stopped underneath a flashing blue sign which read Debbie’s Cafe.

“We wanted to treat you to the best Virginia has to offer,”  Naomi said, showing him to a table on the side patio of the cafe. A server immediately jogged up with a styrofoam tray of greasy fries.

He would never admit it to anyone back in Europe, but Henrik enjoyed some of these exotic Merkan foods quite a bit. They never did switch to the health service diet over here. Of course, they never did get a decent health service, either.

Naomi interrupted his fascination with the fries when she tapped him on the shoulder and pointed to a red-headed boy who had climbed a small podium and positioned himself behind a cheap portable keyboard.

After an announcement by a community center music teacher which Henrik didn’t pay attention to, the boy began to play.

It was a halting but graceful version of the old Cohen classic, Hallelujah. As the sounds melted away into the humid Merkan afternoon, Henrik was once again overcome with wonder. It was here, among these simple people in their slums, that he could find something akin to spiritual enlightenment.  He breathed it in.

The kid was talented.  He listened for a while with his eyes closed.  After the song stopped, the teacher and Naomi clapped with great enthusiasm.  Henrik walked up to congratulate the young musician, and the gaunt and nervous mother hovering behind him.

Henrik shook the boy’s hand. “Excellent job!  That was amazing!”  he said.  “Would you please give me your contact info?  I could get you a visa for anywhere in the Northern World Region.  You could study music at a real university.  What do you think, huh?”

The boy blushed and gazed at the ground.

His mother looked even more nervous. “I don’t know about that, mister,”  she said.  “I listen to the radio news and they’ve explained all about World United.  It might not be so good for him.”

He should’ve known. He had heard this so many times before. “Surely he won’t be able to get any real music training here, is he?”

“If we work hard and we save our money up, we might be able to get there,”  the woman said.  “At least here in Merka, we have the freedom to try.  My child isn’t going to be oppressed by a one world socialist government.”

“He wouldn’t have to live there forever,”  Henrik explained.  “And he would be free to make his own choices…”

“Yeah, if he chooses to be a gay snowflake,”  the woman shot back. “Look, his teacher wanted him to perform for you today, so I let him perform.  But I’m not letting you take him anywhere. We’re still the best country in the world.  I don’t care what anybody else says.”

The professor suspected that he was getting at least some of this hostility courtesy of his dark skin. The white Merkan natives always seemed to have an issue with that.

“That’s right.”  An older man standing nearby nodded vigorously.  Henrik couldn’t tell if he was a father or a grandfather. Most of his teeth were missing, his body bent from a lifetime of grueling labor.  “That’s right.  I thank God every day that I was lucky enough to be born in Merka.”

“Living in the rest of the world is not quite the nightmare you imagine it to be,”  Henrik said.  “We lead very normal lives.”

“Nope.  Nice try, but you can’t fool us,”  the woman said. “I listen to the Han Stannity show every day.  Good man.  He gives us all the information about what really goes on over there–how they tax you to death, how the only way you can get medical care is through the government…”

Her son stared at her, wide-eyed.

“We know the truth!”  the woman finished triumphantly.

Henrik bowed to her and her son.  “I suppose if you’ve found out the truth about us, there’s not much I can do to persuade you otherwise.  I wish you all the best for your future, young man.”  For a moment, his mask of politeness slipped.  “With all due respect, though, Han Stannity is a complete moron.”

He turned and slowly walked away.

“You can go fuck yourself!  You and your country!”  He could hear the woman screaming after him. “We will bomb the shit out of you!”

That would have been a scary threat, Henrik thought. A scary threat…about fifty years or so ago.

Naomi was waiting for him, her face drawn, her hands folded together.  “That was so disappointing, Henrik. I’ll have one of the event organizers speak to them.”

The professor waved his arms. “No, no, don’t.  It’s not necessary.”

He sat down and went back to sipping his beer. Now that the woman was done screaming, she and her family began making their way to the World United food and medicine distribution point.  There would also be doctors available there to give them free medical and dental exams.

He didn’t feel any anger as he watched these fiery warriors for liberty rushing to claim assistance from the institution they so hated.  He realized their fist shaking fury was a symptom of their total powerlessness.

He smiled at Naomi across the table.  “Please, don’t look so anxious, my dear.  I have never lost faith in the value of our mission.”

“It just breaks my heart that a man like you, who only wants to help others, gets treated like this.”

This would be the perfect time to hop on his return flight back to Stockholm.  In fact, it was way overdue.  He was done with this place.

“Naomi, this isn’t all about me helping them.  The truth is, these people help me.  They help me find gratitude–gratitude for what we’ve got in the rest of the world.”

And as she waved a tearful goodbye to him and he climbed back up to his flying ship, he added to himself:

“Where else could I go to feel this superior?”

 

Lucky Subjects of America!

I am happy to report our mission has been accomplished.  America has been Made Great Again.  We used to be Number One, now we are Number One Plus Plus!  We can count ourselves fortunate to be here for this glorious moment in our country’s history.

Our medical technology is the best and most innovative in the world.  One might worry that this would mean too many of us would live for too long, but luckily it’s also the most expensive medical technology in the world, and our health care system ensures that survival of the fittest (or, in this case, survival of the wealthiest) still applies.  Those in the working class will not burden the system after their productive and useful years are over.  Successful individuals, on the other hand, can be kept functioning in a vegetable state long past their expiration date.

The women of our nation are grateful to have been returned to their sacred feminine role.  No obstacle stands in the way of their freedom to birth countless babies.  Their labor may be unpaid, but it is the most important and holy work of all:  providing a supply of workers for our fast food restaurants, and soldiers for our neverending wars.

Speaking of which, our battles around the world are bringing us unprecedented victories–we are paying more money for more foreign military bases than before, and are able to grant the gift of democracy to the vanquished in those lands.  Haters might call us the Evil Empire, but we are ready and willing to fight anyone who questions our commitment to peace.  And now that our southern border wall has been extended to cover all four sides of the country, we can guarantee absolute safety to our fellow Americans, and keep them protected from nefarious eastern, western and northern influences.

Another nefarious influence which we have nearly completely succeeded in rooting out is that of the heathen Commie god named “Jesus.”  Our churchgoers pray to the Prosperity God and plead daily for His blessings.

Our enemies claim that we have turned America into a Third World nation.  We will not argue with this ludicrous assertion, except to say that even if it were true, we would be the best Third World nation ever.  Nobody can Third World the way we Third World.  Our tent cities are bigger than your tent cities, loser.

So don’t be afraid to embrace the MAGA, Americans!  Today, our nation stands unified–not least because anyone who dares to disagree has a good chance of getting “vanished”. Let us vow to ourselves that if we sacrifice more money, health and sanity to Our Dear Orange Leader next year, we can make America even greater!

I turn my laptop on in the morning already knowing that the battle continued raging even while I was asleep.  Indeed, shots were fired in the middle of the night.

“You have to ask yourself, are you here for the revolution?  Are you a revolutionary or what?”

I’m definitely a “what.”  And the correct category is…?

“Are you a patriot?  Are you fighting for liberty?  We are continuing our fight against the useless bureaucrats in D.C.”

“How can any liberal support Hillary?”

“How can any conservative support Kasich?”

“Bernie will smash the banks…”

“Trump will keep those illegals out…”

Remember when the Internet used to be all about posting pictures of babies, lunches and kittens?  Believe it or not, I really miss that time.

“You people are privileged and don’t know what it’s like to struggle…”

Hey, everyone!  Here’s a video of Chirpy!

“You people have never had a real job or paid taxes–you don’t what it’s like out there in the adult world…”

“Old and square…”

“Young and dumb…”

Chirpy is a parakeet.  He likes to play the synth…

“Racist…”

“Politically correct sheeple…”

“Fascist…”

“Communist…”

Watch him play the Game of Thrones theme!

“You Nazis should get sent to camps…”

He even whistles along!

“You SJWs should get shot into a ditch…”

And isn’t it hilarious how the cat is watching him from below?

Right?

Guys?

“Let’s burn everything down!”

“Let’s burn everything down!”

It’s not too late.  We don’t have to burn everything down.

 

The important thing to remember is that there is a rational answer to every question.

“Teacher, they’ve been draining my blood for a long time now. I’m starting to feel weak. When will it stop?”
“So you want the people who pump your blood to lose their jobs? And the people who transport it, and sell it? What do you think that will do to the local economy?”
“But I will probably die if this goes on.”
“Well, the free market gods don’t owe you your life. How selfish can you be?”

“Teacher, our food is trash. Can we request better quality food?”
“You do realize that will make it more expensive, right? Is that you what you want, for everyone to have to pay more?”
“I guess not.”
“Exactly.” *dangles smart phone in front of student* “Now look at the shiny toy and relax…relax…”

“Teacher, I’m ill. Do I have the right to medical care?”
“Oh, sure–medical care! What will you ask for next? Free Internet? A limo and a mansion? Why do you want to get something for nothing?”
“But I work for you.”
“So? I don’t have to give you enough to live on in return.”
“I don’t think I like this arrangement.”
“If you don’t like it, move on. Find someone else.”
“All the other free market gurus are assholes too. I don’t think they’d treat me any better.”
“That’s not my problem.”

“Teacher, I’ve lost my retirement money in the stock market.”
“Well, that’s your own fault. You chose to invest it.”
“So you’re saying I should keep my money out of the stock market?”
“Of course not! You can’t do that. If you don’t invest, you’ll never have enough for retirement.”
“Huh, I’m confused. Now what?”
“It’s up to you! Isn’t it great to have all this freedom?”

“Teacher, I’m working harder and harder, and barely surviving. I’m not able to afford health care, or an education, or a retirement. I’m paying a fortune for wars around the world. I need your help…what am I supposed to do?”
“You’re supposed to show gratitude for how great your life is! Say thank you.”
“Thank you, Master.”

Holy Ronald the Great, patron saint of laissez faire capitalism, help us preserve our conservative faith.  Help us remember what we believe in.

Save us from unrestrained government spending and the temptation to raise taxes.  Sure, you ran deficits and raised taxes, but you did it to defend us from the anti-American enemy.  And anything done to defend us from the anti-American enemy is sacred in our eyes, amen.

May your spirit inspire us to appear patriotic.  For we know that we will fall short of the glory of real patriotism in our deeds, but the virtue of appearing patriotic will redeem us.  Yea, our Democratic opponents will be accused of weakness when they walk the road of diplomacy, but we will be able to trade arms for hostages and still call ourselves true patriots for all eternity.

Rescue us from division and splintering, from multiple factions and an abundance of primary candidates.  Grant us unity, and do not permit us to have any doubts about our platform, nor to listen to deceitful suggestions that we should change it.  With your aid, we will live our lives in your image–with a cheerful indifference to the facts, joking about the things which we do not understand, knowing we will be right no matter what.

Above all else, we are gathered here in your name to worship and praise that most holy of holies, the Almighty Dollar.  May it ever increase and multiply.  Even as we are broke and struggling and crushed by the heel of great corporations, we remain steadfast in our belief that one day, you will bestow upon us the blessings of wealth, just as you have upon your other servants who tell us to vote Republican.  So we say, let the wealthy remain wealthy, today and tomorrow, now and forever, wealth without end.  Amen.

When you go on a journey, you discover that the world is full of dangerous people.  My life has been no different.  I’ve come far and faced off against many villains.

For example, when I was a child, I was told that evil American capitalists wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on me.  But then I moved to a different land and found out that it was, in fact, evil Russian Communists who wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on me.  That was confusing, but then things got even more complicated.

When I lived by the northern European seas, abortion and gay rights were considered good things, and anybody who opposed them was strange.  But when I lived in the American desert, I learned that abortion and homosexuality were sins, and anybody who supported them was immoral.  Now I live by the Pacific Ocean, and once again it’s those who are too religious and too traditional that are suspect.  I’m having a hard time keeping track of all this.  Maybe it would be easier for me to tell the good guys and the bad guys apart if I had stayed in one place and didn’t move around so much.

What makes it even harder is that so many people wear magical disguises and are not what they seem.  For instance, those who aren’t Christian aren’t really American, even though they pretend to be.  Just like those who aren’t Catholic aren’t really Polish.  Ah, but hold on–it’s not enough to know that someone is wearing the Christian label.  If they are liberal, they aren’t really Christian.  You see how tricky this gets.

Now I feel as if I’m living in a cursed time, because everyone is starting to look like an enemy.  The conservatives aren’t true patriots and neither are the progressives.  I’m supposed to be on the watch for thieves who will steal my money through taxes and robbers who will steal my work by paying me too little for it.  There are hawks who want to attack everyone and doves who want us to get attacked.  Gun nuts want to shoot me, but then again I hear that those who favor gun restrictions want to see me defenseless and shot.

So how do I move forward on my way when I’m surrounded by dragons?  Could it be?  Is it possible that I’m the only one who’s right and everybody else is wrong?  After all, many wise men and women around me are making this claim–that they are the only ones who hold the key to true knowledge.

Believing that those who think differently from you are monsters to be fought is one way to journey through this world.  I find the travelling lighter and easier when I don’t carry all that heavy weaponry with me, though.  The dragons are imaginary anyway–they’re just imperfect human beings, a lot like me–and our battles are unnecessary.