FLAVOR: dramatic vignette
"Thank you for meeting with me today."
"Of course. It is my job for the truth to be heard."
The man behind the desk is reclining on his chair. But he leans forward, arms bent at the elbows, hovering over the table. He nods at me, behind his interlocked fingers.
So I go on.
"As you know, our weapons may be effective against infections, but they have done little to isolate the cause. Our procedures suffer against the chronic and complex dimensions of the creature's origin, which account for nearly three-quarters of our defense costs. Worse still, adverse effects and casualties from our own devices account for nearly a quarter-million deaths a year—the third leading cause of death in the country."
I slide forward the paperwork.
He glances down, a stern expression.
I try to ease into my approach:
"Do not misunderstand, Chairman. I am eternally grateful to be a citizen of the leading nation in the world. To be at the forefront, the cutting-edge of biotech and medical technologies."
He smiles. "But?" he urges.
"But," I continue. "And I think I speak for many when I say this... We as a nation, are crippling under the massive costs. The costs of new drugs, new pills; the costs of diagnostic tools such as MRIs and CAT scans; the unbelievable costs of specialized therapies—radiation, broad-spectrum antibiotic regimens, and the like."
"I see where you're coming from," the Chairman pushes up his glasses. "But these costs are necessary. As you know, Death does not wait. He ambushes—mutates—evolves."
"I agree," I say, playing the devil's advocate. "Technology and faith are our two most profitable exports. Please do not doubt my faith in my authorities, or my experts."
I have prepared these lines for weeks. I must be careful in my delivery—
"The problem is the nature of treatment itself. Ours has devolved into a free-market enterprise."
The Chairman raises an eyebrow.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that there is an inherent conflict of interest, when on the one hand, the massive costs of our weapons demand that they be used—doctors and hospitals are encouraged to invest in the latest drugs and treatments, so the sick can foot the bill. But there is no indication that these treatments are in fact the best solutions; rather, all our research indicates that preventative care is the only long-term solution."
I wait for him to catch on.
"But..." he says slowly. "There is no money in preventative care."
"Precisely," I say.
The Chairman raises up from his seat.
"Are you suggesting, that pharmaceutical, biotech companies and hospitals are in cahoots?"
"I fear that is not all I'm saying." I pull out another set of documents. "It gets worse."
"These extraordinary costs," I continue, "have warranted the existence of financing alternatives, such as private insurance. But by virtue of being private, these insurers are businesses first. Theirs is an agenda of profit-maximization, and risk management. Is it any wonder then,"
I pull out a stack of heavy paperwork—
"That all our attempts to standardize medical records have floundered in the sea of mixed providers and ambiguous coverage? Even our doctors don't know what is covered or what isn't."
The Chairman chuckles. "It's a conspiracy, boy."
"I certainly think so," I say, quite seriously. "Imagine what this means to the average white-collar, or blue-collar... Our workers who are most prone to accidents, dangerous work conditions. And yet, those most in need of job security have also the least mobility to take time off to go to the hospital. Much less maneuver around obnoxious piles of paperwork, or scream through the tunnels of fat bureaucracies—forever timid, forever reluctant to make any decisions or bear any responsibilities. It almost seems as if the system not only capitalizes on those most in need of basic coverage, but also exploits them, by discouraging them from early treatment!"
The Chairman slides back into his chair.
He examines me closely. Finally, he says:
"That's a fine theory and everything, boy. But where's the proof?"
Our eyes level across the chasm. A few moments of tense silence.
"I don't have any," I say, finally.
"Then what are you here for? What do you want from me?"
"I just wanted to convince you personally. I hoped that, in the interest of our nation, as the Chairman of our media and newspapers, you would find the argument compelling enough to issue, at the very least, a series of new campaigns to raise awareness, or on public health matters."
"Compelling? Why, I think you're spot on." The Chairman chuckles. "No, son. That is not the reason why I cannot help you. Do you understand?" He opens his desk-drawer, reaches into it.
"I'm not quite sure I do."
"I cannot help you," he says, "because I also serve on the Board of UnitedHealth..."
A shot sounds loudly inside the closed room—
"... and money makes the world go 'round."