You are walking down the street and have a sudden asthma attack. You’d never had one before, but the strain to catch every breath is like the icy grip of death. You know this can kill people if untreated, so you walk into a nearby pharmacy. Every step to reach the counter is torture, and every gasp feels like your last. It is difficult, even, to tell the clerk what you need.
“Sir,” you manage as best as you are able, “I appear to be suffering from acute asthmatic symptoms stemming, I believe, from the fracking operation and copious coal mining just outside this fine establishment. I require an emergency albuterol inhaler or some other type of bronchodilator, stat. Also I am a doctor of pulmonology and this is all rather ironic, don’t you think?”
This is all you manage to get out before your breath escapes you.
“All right. I just have to call a doctor to diagnose your symptoms.”
“Sir, I am myself a pulmonologist. There is also a pulmonology colleague I see at the next counter–”
“My doctor recommends you get a second opinion from a specialist,” the clerk cuts you off.
“All right,” you say with increasing difficulty. You turn to your colleague, who is already writing you a prescription for the medication. You respectfully hand it to the clerk, who pushes it back at you. Your colleague, realizing her error, takes out her smartphone and calls in the script digitally. The clerk looks at the two of you blankly until his monitor beeps. Several people are lining up behind you.
“That appears to be in order,” says the clerk. “I just have to see your insurance.”
“Here it is,” you say. You wait an agonizing twenty minutes while the clerk runs the documentation. The line accrues like the inevitable crud that builds up on the insides of toilets.
“Ah,” says the clerk finally. “There is a problem. The medication is not covered by your insurance.”
“What? Why?” asks your colleague, flummoxed. Meanwhile, you are doing your best impression of a fish out of water.
“The insurance’s specialists have decided you do not need this medication. Instead, they have prescribed you an alternative,” says the clerk. He places a folded paper bag on the counter and waits expectantly.
“That is not an acceptable form of treatment,” says your colleague, livid.
“The insurance company says it is,” says the clerk blankly. He does not comprehend why a common vessel made of flattened dead tress is not equivalent to life-saving medication in a quick-delivery aerosol.
“Who at the insurance company?” your colleague demands.
“Um,” the clerk hems and haws. “The… ahh… accountant. Apparently they are not covering pre-existing conditions.”
“I literally just got this outside.”
You seize the paper bag anyway, and desperately breathe into it. Or, you try, but the bag is shoddily made and doesn’t hold air. With your dying breath, you say:
“I am very angry with you, but as you are a gormless minimum wage worker who nevertheless cannot contradict company line for fear of economic reprisal, yet are empowered to arbitrate for a faceless soulless profit machine, I can do nothing.” You die.
Later, your colleague also dies, but from an antibiotic resistant strain of zombie virus. She contracted it from a brunch shrimp sammie that was made by a low-wage worker who could not afford to see a doctor. Zombies slowly take over the world, starting with everybody on the pharmacy line. Also, the clerk dies trying to drive on a road built by a libertarian. It’s paved with uninformed claims written on cheap paper stolen from Ayn Rand’s desk.