June 28, 2012

In the Waiting Room at The Bone Palace


photo of MRI spine from wikicommons.
Thursday morning I accompanied my husband, who has been having back pain, for an MRI appointment.  First things first, I wrote a check to cover his portion before we even went through the door of the relatively new orthopedic practice locals refer to as “The Bone Palace.”  Built several years ago by the largest ortho company in our area, the practice features all hands on deck, all revenue streams in one convenient building from braces to scans to Cortisone injections and same-day-surgery.   The building was also, reportedly, expensive.

I wrote the check for hundreds of dollars.  Though it isn’t required, most medical clinics in our area are collecting up front now since our insurer announced it wasn’t covering employer-group plans after December 31.

My Beloved stood in the waiting room; sitting hurts too much.  I sat down in an uncomfortable stack chair in a row of three equally uncomfortable stack chairs.  I was glad he was still standing.

 Two chairs away from me was a man entirely dressed in camouflage colored clothing.  And a camo-colored hat.

He immediately started talking to both of us.  He asked my Beloved questions, “Have you ever had an MRI before?”  Then before My Beloved answered, he said, “I’ve had twenty-six. You know they about killed me.”

We didn’t ask who “they” was.

 My Beloved shifted on his other hip, in obvious pain.  I pulled out my cell phone and pretended to do something on it. 

Camo Man told us he liked to arrive at his appointments an hour early. 

“Great, I thought to myself.  I’ll be trapped with this guy during the test.”

With thirty years in health care, I’m not unsympathetic to difficult plights.  Today I was here to support my husband and didn’t really want to talk.  I was tied up in knots about my husband’s health, the expense and what was to come from the Supreme Court.

The technician came and took My Beloved away.  He looked relieved.

Camo Man kept talking.  He had a thing for “They.” 

“They did this to me.  They ran over me with a truck.  Now my checks aren’t big enough. ….blah, blah, blah, and then my brother-in-law stole a lawn mower, a four thousand dollar lawn mower, and some guy from down South got my number and called me up and said he was gonna come and kill my brother.  And I said, how did you get my number….blah, blah, blah.  It’s the gays that are causing all this, you know.  They are a problem and they are not Christian.  I’m a preacher, you lnow, I preached my own mother’s funeral, and my brother didn’t even come.”

I kept looking at my phone, though sometimes I nodded.

“I have a boat,  you know.  I bought it from my neighbors and they ripped me off.  That boat was a worthless piece of shit.  I’m so mad at them.  It wasn’t worth nothin’ and I paid good money for it.“

 The appointment was for 9:45 a.m.  EDT and by 10 a.m. I wanted to find a television, knowing that one of the biggest Court decisions of my lifetime was about to be announced.  I was born a few years after Brown v. Board of Education, but I certainly remember Roe v. Wade and I knew today would be a day I would long remember, either way.

Hoping against hope, I wanted to believe Robert Reich who presciently wrote in his “Huff Post” blog yesterday  that the Affordable Care Act would be upheld. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/supreme-court-health-care-ruling_b_1631555.html

The cell phone rang, and it was my father.  He gets really riled up about social issues now.  In the last ten years (since leaving the a conservative church and moving to a college town), he has “come out” on progressive issues.  I tell him that he was a closet Democrat all of his life, but didn’t want to annoy my very Republican grandparents who kept a photo of Ronald Reagan next to my wedding picture on the RCA cabinet television.

He described walking the halls of his retirement home, like Diogenes in search of an honest man, for someone to talk to about the ACA.  He found as he told me with a sniff in his tone, “Some Republicans who just didn’t know the facts.  They didn’t know that we are ranked at #37 worldwide in health care, because of things like our high infant mortality in a westernized nation.”  And then he rattled off some statistics that he read somewhere and probably got from “Kiplinger’s Newsletter” or “Time” magazine.

I left the waiting room in search of a television.  In the physician waiting room I found the ever-chipper Fox Morning Show, but it was broadcasting on local time.  There was no mention of the ACA though by now it was about 10:06 a.m. EDT.

Being a news junkie, I was getting desperate.  I went back to the little waiting room and my Green and Tan neighbor started in on how “they aren’t Christians.  You know, the gays, they aren’t Christians.”

I said nothing, but decided to access the mobile internet on my phone which requires a fee.  It was 10:07 a.m. EDT and CNN’s headline read something like “Mandate falls to SCOTUS.”

All I could think about was  what is wrong with my husband’s back and how much will it cost, will we have insurance after the end of the year, will our 20-something son have insurance, and how could this happen again.  I wondered if the technician who took my husband back for the test had health insurance. The Bone Palace probably has less than fifty employees, and I wondered if that was an included benefit.  Was she a single mother? First SCOTUS slammed justice in Bush v. Gore, then Citizens United.  Why even John McCain slammed Citizens United on a recent Meet the Press appearance.

My Beloved and I left The Bone Palace, unsure of what would happen next.  We drove off in our separate vehicles, and learned from NPR that CNN and Fox had failed to read the SCOTUS decision past the second page.

That’s where Chief Justice Roberts said that the ACA ‘s individual mandate was not constitutional under the Commerce Clause.  On the third page, he discusses the tax issues.

What a great day!

“They” got something right.