December 29, 1997

Health Care CPR

by Gary Krist


(Note: In the original print version, this piece appeared as part of a large illustration by Seymour Chwast)


An Open Letter to Our Customers
from Amalgamated Medical Plus, Inc.


Dear Amalgamated Member:

As you know, Amalgamated Medical has been in the news lately. While we believe that our financial woes have been much exaggerated in the press and on Wall Street, the problems facing us are very real indeed, and we thought you deserved to know what we intend to do about them.

Here at Amalgamated Medical, we are convinced that responsible cost-cutting measures can be implemented without sacrificing the high level of care our customers have learned to expect from us. Here, then, are just a few of the actions we'll be taking in the next few months to make Amalgamated the competitive, fiscally responsible health maintenance organization we all want it to be:

* Effective immediately, our "Free Liposuction With Every Surgery" policy has been discontinued.

* Emergency Room hours in all of our facilities will now be Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon. Patients arriving after-hours or on weekends will be issued a "Home ParamedicŪ Kit", so that they can stabilize their own conditions until the next regular business day.

* To compensate for inevitable staff cutbacks, all office administration personnel will now receive training in obstetrics and basic anesthesiology.

* Amalgamated Dental Services' "Real Men Don't Need Novocain" advertising campaign will be expanded.

* As part of our new corporate sponsorship program, all hospital scrubs, nurses' uniforms, and white physician coats will bear the logos and slogans of the following corporate partners: Volvo Motors ("Now don't you wish you'd bought a safer car?"), Healthy Choice Foods ("We TOLD you about saturated fat."), and Acme Funeral Homes ("Because mistakes do happen...").

* Beginning January 1st, 1998, our new national Director of Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine will be Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

* Fulfillment responsibility for Amalgamated Mental Health Services will in future be subcontracted to Happy Time Concessions, Inc., makers of high-quality psychopharmaceutical vending machines for the dispensing of Prozac, Zoloft, and (for a modest additional co-payment) cuddly Gund stuffed animals.

* Recent press reports notwithstanding, pre-owned Yugo hatchbacks make perfectly acceptable ambulances. The conversion of our fleet will proceed.

* Patients whose treatment involves the use of expensive medical equipment (e.g. CAT-scan, heart-lung, and kidney dialysis machines) will henceforth be subject to our new "you break it, you bought it" policy.

Admittedly, Amalgamated Medical has made mistakes in recent years. But we hope that the end result of our difficulties will be a stronger and more responsive company, devoted to providing the highest-quality health care for you and your family. After all, we've been nursing the sick for many years now. We're not about to let a few lawsuits and state attorney-general investigations stop us now.


Edmund Q. Saunders

Amalgamated Medical Plus
"We Put the Oh! in HMO"

Gary Krist's most recent book is "Bad Chemistry."