May 17, 2023
Hugh Qiddenmi, Buzzsaw Correspondent
In recent weeks, Florida has become a focal point of the national ‘Culture War’ once again. Under the leadership of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the state has so far passed multiple laws for the purpose of protecting children from education that might induce a conscientiousness that the governor and his supporters recognize as a potential obstacle for the Republican party and conservatives in general. The laws signed by DeSantis so far include the removal from the K-12 curriculum of dangerous pronouns such as ‘he’ and ‘she’, and restricting educators from mentioning any relationship to people who also possess such pronouns, the prohibition of children seeing anyone dressed in a way that does not properly indicate adherence to an acceptable representation of their gender, the removal of any mention of the history of racial conflicts in the U.S., and other bills designed to protect children from a fate far worse than being gunned down in their classrooms; the attainment of ‘cultural perspective’.
The most recent ‘culture war’ bill signed by DeSantis allows medical professionals and insurance companies to refuse treatment of or pay claims for anyone that they have a ‘sincere moral or ethical’ conflict over.
The Florida bill, “CS/SB 1580: Protections of Medical Conscience”, states that it is “Providing that health care providers and health care payors have the right to opt out of participation in or payment for certain health care services on the basis of conscience-based objections”. The bill was signed by DeSantis on May 11, 2023 and will take effect on July 1st of this year. At that point, any medical professional may decide not to provide care, including life-saving procedures, for anyone that professional objects to on the basis of, well… anything so long as it is a ‘sincerely held belief’.
As the bill includes for-profit entities such as insurance companies, it also means that those companies may deny any claim made by any patient on the same basis.
I reached out to PR people from various insurance companies the day the law was signed, but was informed that the company execs and spokespeople for most of those companies were ‘indisposed’ while dealing with the new development by throwing penthouse parties and shopping for new private islands. After a week, the CEO of Esurience Health Incorporated, Doug Lutton, reached out to me and agreed to an interview. I met him in his office where the smell of cigars, cocaine, and hookers wafted from the furniture. Still somewhat inebriated, he explained how this law was going to enhance the well-being of everyone who is invested in his company from employees to shareholders.
“So, Mr. Lutton, you’ve said that this new law, the “Protections of Medical Conscience”, signed by DeSantis is a great move not only for Florida, but for your employees and shareholders. Would you care to elaborate?”
“Sure, Hugh, and call me ‘Doug’.
“Okay, Doug. Why do you grin from ear-to-ear when this law is brought up?”
After spending a few moments resembling Bruce from ‘Finding Nemo’, he responded;
“Hugh, in my industry something like this comes around once in a lifetime. I’m probably one of the few people who’ve had a chance to realize such an opportunity twice because I was a pharmaceutical executive in 2003 when the non-interference clause was thrust into Medicare part D like a knife into a nun.”
The horrified look on my face prompted him to add; “It’s a turn of phrase, a little joke we sometimes use in the industry.”, he snickered, “It would take a bit to explain.”
“An opportunity has landed in the lap of every insurance provider that operates in Florida. We can now use more precise metrics to leverage our policies in a way that will benefit the lives and families of all of our executives, our investors, and the people that maintain our beach houses, vacation resorts, and yachts.”
At that, he turned his phone screen to show me what appeared to be a 100 meter, three story super yacht with a full pool and helicopter pad.
“It has an IMAX theater with seating for 300 too!”, he added while tucking a $50 bill into my belt..
“So, Doug, you said ‘more precise metrics’. What kind of ‘metrics’ do you mean?”
“Hugh, to advance our system, we’re preparing for the July 1st rollout with a new algorithm that includes cost-saving parameters that will ensure our competitive advantage. Our attorneys are working closely with our adjusters and appeals specialists to find ways to exploi… er, explore the new law…”
“The ‘Let them Die’ law?”
Lutton Bruced again for a moment, then recovered. “For ways to enhance profitability.”
“And by that you mean ‘not paying out claims’, right?”
“It’s not the fault of our company that someone who gives us their money puts themselves in a position that exempts them from being a legitimate claimant.”
“But the law requires that there be a ‘sincerely held religious, moral, or ethical belief’ that conflicts with providing care or paying claims. Can you explain what sort of belief you base these ‘cost-saving parameters’ on?”
“That’s the beauty of this new law. For many medical professionals, someone’s lifestyle choices, such as homosexual attraction, lack of a corresponding theology, or being a man in a woman’s body, are decisions the vict… er, ‘patient’ makes that the particular responding medical professional doesn’t agree with because of their personal cultural and societal values. For the insurance industry, people won’t be singled out for those sorts of choices. For us, the lawyers told me after we opened the champagne, it has very little to do with culture.”
“So you won’t be denying the claims of people just because they may be LGBTQ+?”
“Absolutely not! Like I said, we won’t be singling out a specific community. Instead we’ll base our decisions on our own moral and ethical standards.”
“What ‘standards’ might those be?”
“First and foremost, we have a moral and ethical obligation to our stockholders. We can’t allow harm to come to their portfolio just because someone made the immoral decision to contract a disease like cancer, get in a car accident, or foolishly stand in the way of a bullet.”
“So you’re saying that it’s a moral and ethical obligation because of money?”
“No, no… it’s not like that at all. It’s profit and dividends that force us into a position of this kind.”
“Okay, so you’re saying it makes no difference whether someone is gay, straight, atheist, black, Muslim, or anything like that?”
“Oh goodness no. We have an inclusive reputation to uphold.”
At that he displayed a pen with the company logo printed in rainbow colors on the side of it.
“We CARE about our customers, but again; we can’t let their choices violate our moral or ethical obligations.”
“Then you won’t deny someone care on the basis of race?”
“Not at all. The lawyers were very clear that we simply can’t do that. We’d be denying them not on race, but on whether or not revenues from their continued enrollment for a five year period will exceed the cost of the claim by at least 1000%. Otherwise we’d be unable to assure our shareholders of a return.”
“What about someone’s political affiliation?”
“Again, that’s meaningless to us because we have no political ethics of any kind. But if someone is a Democrat, they represent a sector of society that may be hostile to our for-profit model. Denying their claims is strictly good business.”
“What about Republicans?”
“That’s a different matter entirely. While they do help elect people who make laws like this possible, they also elect people who make things like polluting ‘more legal’, regulations for food and product safety more lax, standards for workplace safety less stringent, and they’re all about ‘more CO2 emissions’, ‘eating more red meat’, and drinking cheap beer. They make the world less safe for everyone and that’s a choice that we’re morally obligated to recognize when they file a claim.”
“So your company would deny their claims?”
“Absolutely! We’re not the ones making their choices for them.”
“Okay, so what if someone is a straight, white, conservative Christian?”
“That’s a particularly special category. Both for the reasons above, but also because they have what our lawyers tell us is ‘Pre-Existing Conditioning’.
“You mean ‘pre-existing conditions’?”
“No, “Pre-existing Conditioning”. They’ve made a clear choice to put their faith in God, not medical science. We would be doing them a disservice by approving their claims because it would violate their beliefs and violate our bottom line when they can just pray to get better! Why would we do something to usurp their faith?”
“Then why would they buy insurance coverage through your company?”
“There are two reasons for that, Hugh; One is that we don’t just ‘sell insurance’, we sell ‘peace of mind’. Sure, they have God and faith and all that, but I guarantee that not one of them will jump out of an airplane at 10,000 feet with a Bible instead of a parachute. The other reason; if they live in Florida or seek care in Florida, it won’t matter because, and the lawyers tell me this is okay; ALL the insurance companies here are going to use this. So long as we don’t actually coordinate, we’re not breaking any laws simply by using all the same tools the state provides us.”
“So what you’re really saying is that you can deny any claim made by anyone for any reason?”
“Like I said, Hugh, this law is going to be great. Our next interview might be on my new island!”
And with that, he nodded off in his chair, his face a gentle rictus no doubt reflecting the dreams of dividends and yachts in his head.