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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Death's Door Bandit; A Sad Tale about the US Health Care System

An elderly gentleman walked into a bank and indicated to the teller that he had a weapon. The teller was convinced enough about the danger or nauseated enough by his ear hair that they considered the threat to be serious. Before anyone handed him the money, the gentleman collapsed into a chair and had a heart attack.

This turned out to be an actual lucky turn of events for our ear haired protagonist because he had robbed the bank to get money to pay for health care. Due to a 1976 US Supreme Court decision, it is considered cruel and unusual punishment for a prison not to provide health care. Since the elderly gentleman was now in the prison system, he got the medical care that he needed.

However, there is a plot twist for the Death's Door bandit (This is a better term than the Ear Haired Bandit. I don't know if he had ear hair or not but if he is over 65, it's safe to assume that he did. The Bleeding Heart bandit is also an option). Readers may be wondering if the Death's Door bandit (DDB) was old enough to qualify for Medicare, the health insurance scheme for senior citizens. Not only was he eligible for Medicare but also Medicaid, the health insurance scheme for the low income! In case anyone is wondering, why I am calling Medicare and Medicaid a scheme, it is because I am imitating the Economist who uses that terminology. If you read it with a British accent, it sounds much more regal.

DDB is getting his health care paid for by the prison system but could also get his health care paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. He will no longer need to rob banks for health care so this story appears to have a happy ending. But wait, this scheme has a plot twist!

Heart attacks and medical care for senior citizens whose physical and mental status has decompensated to the point that they don't even realize that they qualify for basic government programs is not cheap. It's costly enough that administrators for the prison health system and Medicare and Medicaid started to pay attention. Both administrators took the high road and began to maneuver to try and stick the other one with DDB's medical bill. Medicare and Medicaid administrators want DDB to stay in jail so the prison will pay for his health care while the prison administrators wants to release DDB so Medicare and Medicaid will pay for his health care. The justice system is caught in the middle.

Only in America. Our health system must rank number one in something for this scenario.

Full disclosure: This is a true story. Names and details would have been changed to protect the innocent, except there are no innocent in this story.
Full disclaimer: I don't know the difference between disclosure or disclaimer.

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