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Yikes! I've Been Assimilated

By       Message Stephen Pizzo       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Remember StarTrek, The Next Generation, when Captain Jean-Luc Picard was captured by the Borg Collective?

Well, now it's happened to me. I'm being assimilated. I fought it as long as could, but they're right when they warn that "resistance is futile." It really is. And yes, you'll be next. (Oh yes you will.)

While my new overlords are busy recharging, let me explain how this came to pass.

All the way back to my earliest years I've been an out-layer. I never joined groups, unless forced to, like when I ended up in the military in the late 60's. And when I was forced to join a group it was nothing but irritation for everyone involved, me, them and anyone close enough to hear my complaints.

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The bigger the group, the more I distrust and dislike it. Beginning right with kindergarden I instinctively knew that group size and efficiency were inversely proportional. The larger the group the less real stuff gets done, and what does get done costs more and misses the original goals by a mile.

Large working groups are especially vulnerable to a form of social affirmative action. At least a third of the people who make up a large working group are always useless as t*ts on a boar. Still everyone has to treat them as valuable members of "the team." They never do anything useful, say anything useful and, when given a task that requires them to actually produce something, they scurry from cubicle to cubicle bothering the other two-thirds:  "Hey, Steve, can I pick your brain for minute." Then they turn in their (your) report. If these people were not allowed to be part of a group they would most surely die of starvation.

That's been my experience, anyway. So I have spent my entire adult life avoiding large groups, be they in they workplace, political, religious, clubs, fads... you name it. And, up until last month, it worked pretty well -- except for that military business... but trust me, when my term of service was over, they were as glad to see me gone as I was to be gone. (Corporal Clinger couldn't hold a candle to Lance Corporal Pizzo.)

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But I digress. A few months ago my wife, Sue, who works in private practice as a family nurse practitioner, decided to cut back to just two days a week. That meant we lost our health insurance which had been provided by her office.

So out onto the health insurance marketplace I ventured, for the first time.

I've written many times that nearly 50 million Americans were without health insurance, but in the abstract. Suddenly there I was about to be one of them if I did not pick a plan. So we applied to all kinds of companies to see what we could get that was affordable. That meant a high deductible, but I was alright with that.

The first place we applied rejected me. This was the first time the shoe was on my other foot. Suddenly a group had rejected ME. Bastards, I thought. Then I noticed the reason.

 A couple of years earlier my doctor had noticed my recent blood test showed my liver enzymes were up a bit. Nothing serious, but he wanted to see if that was just the way my liver worked or if there was something else going on.

Doctor Paul asked me how much alcohol I consumed each day. Not very much, I told him, a glass of wine with dinner and shot of brandy before bedtime.

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He suggested I try dropping one or the other for a while and retest later to see if that was what causing it. (It wasn't) What I didn't know was the doc had written on my chart: "Try reducing alcohol consumption." I know it now because it was the reason the insurnace company cited for  rejecting me -- that one sentence. I could just see the image the insurance company screener had in her head of wino Steve, laying in a puddle of his own urine,  drinking Ripple out of a brown paper bag behind the local Stop-n-Shop.

Lesson: Don't tell your doctor anything. "Do you consume alcohol?"  Nope. "Do you now or have you ever smoked?" Nope. "Do you use recreational drugs?" Nope. "Do you eat a lot of red meat?" Nope. That's all that's ever going to appear on my future medical files, page after page of "nope."

Well, to make a long story shorter, we ended up at  Kaiser Permanente -- the Borg of American health care.  Now I don't want to diss Kaiser because they do a fine job. They are completely modern, wired to extreme, Web-friendly and remarkably efficient. Even so, they ain't cheap. With a high deductible we still have to cough up $760 a month. (It's like having to make two car payments every month, but you don't get the cars.)

Even with that hefty outlay every month, if I want to talk to a doctor I have to cough up another seventy bucks. Consequently the only time I'll be seeing a Kaiser doc is if I can't staunch the bleeding by fashioning a tourniquet out of my own belt.

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Stephen Pizzo has been published everywhere from The New York Times to Mother Jones magazine. His book, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, was nominated for a (more...)

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