Francine: Hello, I have an appointment of some kind to discuss my health care options.
Secretary: Yes, they have been expecting you. Go right through those doors. Then into the office first one on your left.
Francine steps around the desk and sees the double doors with a sign over them that reads “Life Panels.” She finds the office and steps in. A well-dressed, smiling, middle-aged man greets her.
Bureaucrat: “Ms. Johnson! So nice to see you. Come in, come in. Make yourself comfortable. Would you like some coffee?”
Francine: “Yes that would be nice.” The bureaucrat pours her a large cup of black coffee.
Bureaucrat: “Ok, let’s get to it. We’re here to discuss your health situation. Tell me, how is your back doing?”
“Well, um, it’s been okay I guess.”
“But you have chronic pain in your lower back, do you not? I see your doctor’s reports right here about them. You’ve been seeing him at least once every few weeks, correct?”
“You know all that about me? Yes, it is true that I have some chronic pain in my back. But it’s being managed fine with stretching and physical therapy, ice, and some pain medications.”
“Glad to hear it, glad to hear it. But that’s just the thing. You see, the computer flagged an alert that your back pain has now exceeded the Lippold Threshold, making you a prime candidate for our ultimate healthcare solution. By our figures, you are practically incapacitated already.”
“How on earth can a machine know what kind of pain I’m feeling and whether it is debilitating or not? And what is this ‘ultimate healthcare’ you’re talking about?”
“Ms. Johnson, it’s really quite simple. While you may be putting a brave face on it in front of me, the fact is that the government’s portion of your Medicare costs have been steadily increasing over the past two years. This has triggered our finely tuned algorithms to flag your healthcare as reaching an unbearable level of chronic pain, and thus you have qualified for ultimate healthcare. It’s really quite a good thing for you.”
“But what is it?”
“Ultimate healthcare? Why, the end to all your pain, the end to your worries and your burden upon your family. In a word, euthanization.”
“Euthanization! You mean you want to kill me?”
“Whoa now, wait a minute. No one talks about ‘killing’ in here. We are in the business of life in this department. Whole life. Planned life. Useful and productive life. No one is talking about killing you, merely ending your pain and easing the burden of your life. I notice you’re wearing a cross: are you religious, Ms. Johnson?”
“Yes, I am a Christian.”
“Okay, that’s great, just great for you. And do you, or do you not, believe that when this earthly life ends you will have a better life in Heaven?”
“Yes I do believe that, with all my heart.”
“You see! That’s wonderful. So not only do you leave this world, with all its pain and troubles, but you will also be entering a new and much more wonderful life, one without any pain. How is this bad?”
“Well for one thing, I’d like Jesus to be in charge of when I die, not the government.”
“That’s a nice sentiment, but c’mon: we know the reality is that God often works through people, does He not? Of course He does! So here He is working through us, using us as His instruments, if you will. And through our studies–highly scientific ones by the way, vetted by the very best medical researchers–we have determined that you are ready for that next life.”
“But I’m not ready for it! I still have a lot of life in me. I still have wisdom to share with my children and grandchildren, love to give them, a garden to tend and nurture, and friends to help.”
“That’s all great. Don’t get me wrong; it really is. I mean, those, uh, intangibles are good things, no one doubts that. But, well, they don’t pay the bills, if you know what I mean. Fact is, based on the Schwartz-Scarpelli charts, you’ve exceeded your Mean Useful Life Quotient by several months already. So, I hate to say this but, you can’t argue with the numbers. It’s all there in black and white.”
“To hell with your numbers! What is our country coming to? That we have Death Panels spitting out computerized execution orders for people like me who have lived good lives and have a lot of life still in them. You know what, I choose to opt out of this program!”
“Ah, hmmm. Well, you don’t quite comprehend things yet, no. First off, I take issue with the pejorative title “death panels.” We are in the life business, as I already mentioned, and I take offense at the implication that we are about death. While death is the result of our ultimate healthcare option, it is all in the service of life you see.”
“I don’t care what you call yourself. I quit this program as of now.”
“Not so fast! Ms. Johnson, do you recall several years ago when you were opted into the program? Course you do, course you do. As you know, you were automatically opted into the program–and I might add, did not seem to object to the benefits we offered!–but once in, there is no opting out. You see, there is simply no process for that. We have no forms that would even make such a thing possible, and nothing happens without the appropriate forms.”
“I am not owned by you or by this government. I will find a way to pay my own medical bills.”
“Dear Ms. Johnson. Don’t you know that the government is the only thing that we all belong to? There is no way to un-belong to the government. You belong, you are opted in, and you stay that way, until you reach the time for your ultimate healthcare, which is lovingly and gently administered, by the way. How can you pay your bills, anyway? All the doctors belong to the State Health Preferred Provider Program, and they could not treat you even if you had money to pay them. They, too, belong to the government. The government takes care of you.”
“Young man, I am done listening to you and your baloney. And I say, to hell with your government and your ultimate healthcare solution. I am leaving now and will be at my house, clinging to my guns–of which I have several–and my religion. And if you try to come and get me, you will find out whether I am incapacitated or not. Good-bye.”
Ms. Francine Johnson, widower, picked up her purse and walked out of the office, through the doors marked “Life Panels,” out of the sterile building, and into the bright sunshine. The bureaucrat stared at her empty chair for a moment, then made a small note in her file: “Status: Uncooperative. Action: Armed Persuasion, Level II requested.”
Here’s what happens when you want to “opt out”: