Orcs in Distant Cubicles
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Tonight, we find the Urban Man alone in his backyard office battling Orcs. Outside, high winds rattle the banana trees. In the house, my family sleeps all innocent and unknowing.
No, I’m not playing a video game or watching a fantasy epic. I’m paying our medical bills and writing nasty letters to my insurance carrier. There’s $475 for an uncovered “diagnostic test,” and $41.55 for lab work on one of my kids that I’m not sure ever occurred.
By midnight, the fight has grown fierce. The field is littered with many piles of statements, along with dying threats from collection agencies. My clothes are ripped. My teeth are gnashing. Often have I drawn a rusty elvish sword and spoken the oaths of dead kings.
But the Orcs are many and persistent, and though they work in far-off cubicles, they prove wise in the ways of battle.
Already, the $41.55 seems lost.
Once upon a time, of course, the insurance company was my ally, not my foe in this struggle. Once, in the misty past, a dull man in a conservative tie fought at my side.
Then one day it seemed like the insurance company not so much switched sides as created its own. When we met on the battlefield, the dull man still spoke as a friend, but he’d mention that he was covering less and less of my back, even as he took more and more of my money.
In one mailing, he told me that if, years ago, I failed to tell him about a hangnail, he might now deny me coverage for some terrible beast I never imagined.
Oh, and he’d hired his own Orcs.
Still, each mailing included glistening photos of happy policy holders and cheerful doctors. Each ad spoke of my company’s great muscle—so I held out hope that the fealty once sworn between our clans would stand.
I mean I was paying $1129 a month.
Then lo, as in all good fantasy novels, the plot thickened. Word came over the mountains that the insurance companies had been taken over by dark lords. CEOs were getting tens of millions with options worth billions. Profits soared as payouts grew scarce—and not just in the health sector. Even during a hurricane, the dark lords had learned how to suck all the money out of a system. Worse, they had made huge campaign contributions, and my own leaders were switching to the dark side.
“What’s the solution to high premiums?” smiled my politicians. “That’s easy! Force everyone to buy private insurance!”
In fact, insurance folks and politicos now say that my problem is not Orcs, but a lack of courage. If I’d just stop being such a wimp, and accept more risk for myself and my family, then mysterious labs would lose their power over my wallet. Like the hero in some gaudy Hollywood movie, they say that the only thing I have to fear is fear itself.
In fact, tonight, as I’m pressed into a corner, I hear some lost Jedi whisper: “Be strong, Urban Man. It’s your fear that gives them strength. How about a health savings account?”
Just then, one of the dark lords bursts through my windy door, waving an increased premium statement for May.
“Halt,” say I. “I have foresworn fear. You have no power in this place.”
“Does that mean you’re willing to accept more risk?” he asks.
“Yes,” say I.
“Terrific,” he cries. “We’ll up your deductible and reduce your coverage to keep your premium about the same and our profit higher. Just sign here.”
It’s late. The Urban Man has grown too weary for math. I put aside my elvish sword, sign the new policy, and drag myself off to bed.
Outside, in the dark of their distant cubicles, I hear the laughter of the Orcs as they toast my courage.
Image Copyright 2001 New Line Cinema Productions, Inc.
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