The Boschian hellscape of our health care system gets the satirical once-over in this sharply written and star-studded short film, part of a 20-part series called “We the Economy” made for CNN Money. A young man (Will Janowitz) comes to the emergency room complaining of a headache and is told by the admitting nurse, “We’ll try not to let you die but it might be pretty expensive.” He then tumbles down the rabbit hole of excessive, unexplained charges for dubious procedures and questionable add-ons administered by a phalanx of happy-to-help doctors and technicians who point out how much cheaper health care is in other countries.
“For the price of a colonoscopy in the U.S.,” explains one of the doctors (Isaiah Washington), “you can fly to Switzerland, rent a chalet, ski for a week and get a colonoscopy.” During the luckless patient’s MRI, he listens to a podcast in which actor Bob Balaban breaks down the history of health care in America, explaining that businesses began offering individual health insurance as a way to lure employees.
Balaban wraps up this discourse on greed and fear of socialized medicine by suggesting patients just “lie back and enjoy the most expensive health care system in the world.” When our patient complains, Ms. Insurance (Maddie Corman) and Mr. Pharmaceutical (Adam Goldberg) pop up to blame each other for rising costs, prompting an intervention monitored by a therapist (Lili Taylor).
The film, produced by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) and local brother and sister team Paul and Jody Allen, is so funny it hurts. But I’m not sure Obamacare is the pain relief we need. After I finally signed my family up last year via the Washington Healthplanfinder’s inept website, we ended up saving $800 a month. Quite a deal! But with the deadline fast approaching for renewal, I’m now once again drowning in the quicksand of co-pays, coinsurance, out-of-pocket maximums and deductibles, while at the mercy of a site so comically backward it seems pre-Internet.
Healthplanfinder is set-up for automatic payments to your health care provider, meaning you shouldn’t have to visit the site more than once a year, yet the system asks you to change your password (requiring caps, lowercase, numbers, symbols, Druid incantations, Zen koans and your pet’s maiden name) four times a year! And then you’re likely to be locked out, as I was, for two weeks, only to have your new plan cancelled or your application denied due to some “technical error.” Sometimes I miss the days when we could simply barter with the family doctor, trading a colonoscopy for two sows, a crate of chickens and a jar of homemade jam.
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