Mercy Killers

The One-Man Show performed by Michael Milligan

Truth is stranger than fiction …

Every time I’ve performed this play, someone from the audience inevitably tells me their own healthcare horror story. One of the most incredible was after a performance for the Harold Clurman Lab Theater. A colleague of mine approached me and told me about an actor friend of hers who was going through a rough patch in her career and left the biz for a while. This is something that happens quite a bit in the arts, especially when trying to make it in NYC, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Anyway, the young lady ended up taking a full-time job working for an insurance company. She was instructed that whenever certain kinds of expensive claims came in from people who lived in the Bronx or above 96th Street on the Upper East Side (which tends to be working-class minorities), she was to send them a denial form. This was a kind of preliminary firewall the insurance company had set up to save money. They had learned that people who lived in those areas were less likely to dispute the denial of service due to having less time, not having access to a lawyer, or just from having been used to getting a raw deal. She was told to just pass along all the claims from folks who lived below 96th Street. Apparently, people who are a little more affluent tend to be more litigious and used to getting what they want.

This kind of policy makes complete sense from an actuarial, profit-making point of view. The less care the insurance company doles out, the more profits they receive. Every service they deny to those least likely to make a stink about it is pure profit for them with very little downside.

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