Practicing subsidized un-medicine

Clutching newspaper clippings in one hand and a medical bag loaded with seeds in the other, my ersatz friend Dr. Franklin Peterson Comstock III, knocking down pregnant ladies, students, the elderly, and two burly construction workers who were waiting for a bus, rushed past me, leaving me in a close and personal encounter with the concrete.

“Medical emergency!” Comstock cried out. “Gang way!”

“You’ve returned to medicine?” I shouted after him.

“I’m going into un-medicine!” he shouted back. “I’m getting the big bucks not to operate!” This was a story too good to let by, so I gave up any hope of the 7:11 “D”-line bus arriving by 7:30, and chased after him.

“Slow down!” I panted. “You’ll kill yourself!”

“No time to slow down,” he said, leaving a trail of broken bodies. “There’s money to be had!”

“If you kill yourself before you get to the hospital, you’ll never see a cent from the insurance company.” That stopped him, giving me time to catch up and catch my breath.

“I’m not operating,” said Comstock.

“If you’re not operating, what’s the medical bag?”

“That’s so I can get money from the Department of Agriculture,” he replied. I’m planting lots of stuff on lots of non-productive acres, and I’m waiting for the market to drop.”

“You want the market to drop?” I asked suspiciously.

“That way I can take advantage of crop insurance. Here! Read!”

A newspaper clipping revealed that Congress approved $90 billion over the next decade to assist farmers whose crops didn’t yield previous production quotas. It was a sleight-of-hand change from a program that gave farmers subsidies not to grow certain crops. However, in this case, the crop insurance program primarily benefitted large corporate agribusiness industry. About 10,000 corporations are receiving more than $100,000 each, with some receiving over $1 million, according to the Environmental Working Group. Local farmers, however, are receiving less than $5,000 a year, and mostly when their crops are wiped out by floods. Also in the budget is more than $1 billion to insurance companies for “administrative” expenses.

“When the public finds out which corporations are getting all this tax-funded bonuses, they’ll be outraged!” I said.

“That’s the juicy part,” said Comstock. “Congress slipped in a non-disclosure clause in the bill, and who gets the bucks is secret.”

“So, you’re entire income will be from not being a successful farmer?” I said, outraged.

“Absolutely not! I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket. I’m also going to get money for not operating.”

“You mean, like the farmers got for not planting crops?”

“Exactly. And you can thank a congressman for this brilliant stroke of fortune.” With that, he handed me another newspaper article. In this article, Rep. Mike Kennedy, a Republican from Utah, in opposition to Obamacare, said, “Access to health care can be damaging and dangerous.” Elaborating, he claimed that as many as 1.5 million people die in hospitals, “and it’s access to hospitals that’s killing these people.”

“That’s even dumber than subsidizing corporate farmers,” I said.

“Not dumb. Just helping the medical profession earn a reasonably high six-figure wage. Even if we get them through surgery, they’ll die in the hospitals anyhow! Isn’t that wonderful!” Wonderful wasn’t exactly the word I had in mind.

“Doctors are supposed to make people healthier,” I brazenly said.

“I guess we can do that while we’re making money,” said Comstock, thoughtfully stringing out his scheme. “In the old days, we surgeons knew there was more money to be made in surgery than in pushing pills, so we rushed everyone into X-Ray, MRI, and CT scans—got a nice chunk of kick-back change for that—then into surgery, and finally into the recovery ward where they sometimes actually recovered.” He paused a moment, grinning. “But, that congressman thinks access to hospitals is dangerous, so that means fewer patients. Fewer patients means we need to have subsidies. Just like the farmers.”

“You’re going to demand Congress, which has already wasted millions of dollars and tried more than 50 times to wipe out Obamacare, pay doctors for not having enough patients?”

“Doctors deserve no less than the MBAs running corporate farms,” he patriotically declared.

“Most doctors aren’t as greedy as you,” I explained.

“Most doctors aren’t as rich as me either,” he retorted. “Besides, it makes no difference. I’m sure the AMA would be thrilled I’m not doing surgery.” I had to agree with him, but I had another question.

“What happened to your franchised Doc’s Gas self-service stations? I thought you became a multi-millionaire because of that.”

“Lost a ton of money. It’s all Obama’s fault.”

I knew Comstock blamed the president for everything wrong in the country—and a few things that were just made up by Fox News commentators who had too much air time and not enough time to do any fact checking. “How is it President Obama’s fault?” I asked.

“Gas prices plummeted this year,” said Comstock. “Cost me a lot of money. But that black, socialist, Muslim, Kenyan dictator refuses to give me a subsidy for having too much gas in my system.”

Yes,” I said sarcastically, “that does seem to be a problem. But, at least you’ll be getting tax-dollars for running an unproductive farm and may get money for not operating.”

“Not enough,” said Comstock. “It’s always not enough.”

And, with that, I thought I had enough, and ran after the 7:11 D-line bus, which, on time, showed up at 7:32.

Walter Brasch, an award-winning social issues columnist and satirist, is the author of 20 books. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an in-depth investigation of the health, economic, and environmental effects of fracking throughout the country.

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