“Advertising is a racket, like the movies and the brokerage business. You cannot be honest without admitting that its constructive contribution to humanity is exactly minus zero.” — F. Scott Fitzgerald
AND NOW, A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR
People were eating free bowls of Total cereal on the Monroe County Courthouse lawn yesterday morning.
A couple of big party tents and dozens of folding chairs were set up around long tables in front of the venerable domed structure. All were plastered with the Total brand name. People wearing Total t-shirts, vests, and smocks walked around the square, directing passersby to the giveaway.
It was all part of the “celebration” for Bloomington being named one of the 25 hardest-working towns in America by Parade Magazine Sunday.
The “Celebration” Raged On In 25 Cities
At least that’s what the press release issued by Total claims. For my money it was nothing more than a cheap hey-look-at-me-stunt. In fact, the entire list of hardest-working towns thing is an ad man’s gimmick.
I’d like to think we’d keep the courthouse lawn fairly free of commercialism. And if we were going to allow businesses to tout their wares on it, those businesses would at least be local, not some multi-national, Fortune 500 concern with annual global net sales near $15B.
Corporate Headquarters, Golden Valley, Minnesota
Perhaps the citizenry of Bloomington is too sophisticated for such obvious commercial flattery. I didn’t see many people flocking to the tents and tables even if they were going to get something for nothing.
But whoever gave Total and its parent, General Mills, the go-ahead to use our public space to hawk their breakfast cereal is easily flattered indeed.
JUST FOLLOWING ORDERS
So, perhaps the best business to get involved in these days is bill collecting for hospitals.
One of the side effects of the sputtering, stuttering economy is the growing inability of poor and working class families to pay their hospital bills. Last year, hospitals in the United States provided some $39B in “uncompensated care,” meaning treatment for the uninsured.
One publicly traded hospital collection agency, Accretive Health, reported a 130 percent increase in company profits in 2011 over 2010.
Wait, did I type business? I meant racket.
“Now, Whaddabout D’at Money Y’Owe Me?”
According to Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, that fabulously successful business, Accretive, is planting collectors in hospitals to circulate among folks waiting to be treated in emergency rooms. The collectors are allegedly leaning on the sick and injured to pay off their outstanding hospital bills for previous services.
Accretive employees get to people after they’ve registered at the ER or the obstetrics desk. “Patients are harassed mercilessly,” one hospital staffer told the New York Times. If the patients owe on unpaid bills, the Accretive people stall and pressure them. Even those who don’t owe money are given the rough massage by Accretive employees — they’re badgered to pay in advance for treatment, a practice unheard of until recent times.
That, my friends, is a racket. And Accretive isn’t the only racketeer in on this dirty business.
In a more innocent day, we called such people goons or plug-uglies. You knew them because their fists were the size of small bowling balls and their noses were crooked. Now you can’t tell them apart from nurses and patient service representatives.
“Y’Don’t Want Me To Get Tough Now, Do Ya?”
Swanson has filed a lawsuit against Accretive regarding its practices. She’s conferring with state and federal regulators over whether to file criminal charges.
I imagine there’ll be plenty of tut-tutting over these ghoulish corporate tactics. Nothing illustrates the transformation of health care from a civic good to a profit-making enterprise better than this story. The lament surely will go up: The corporate bean counters are now holding the strings, controlling our doctors and nurses!
I’d like to bring the discussion down to the individual level, though.
What kind of a human being would willingly work for a company like Accretive?
Yes, I know jobs are scarce these days, and one can’t be terribly picky about things. Someone offers you a job, you snap it up, even if it’s not the perfect position.
Still, how desperate do you have to be to agree to strongarm a pregnant woman whose pains are five minutes apart? Won’t trying to squeeze money out of people who are suffering appendicitis attacks or whose kids are burning up with fever all day eventually get you down even if you are keeping up with the mortgage payments?
“Hey Kid, Where’s Your Mudder? I Gotta Talk To Her’.”
If the only thing that counts is the earning of regular pay, why not hire out as a contract killer or sell crystal meth to teenagers? I’ll bet those two vocations pay a hell of a lot better than Accretive does.
These days it’s a luxury to refuse to work for big bad Barnes & Noble, say, because it’s putting independent bookstores out of business. As long as this recession hangs around, you can table your finely honed social conscience. It’s better to eat and keep your home than it is to maintain some impossible standard of political purity.
The people who work for Accretive, though, have to dig being thumb-breakers, even if they’re not required to actually snap phalanges. Yeah, Accretive is an evil corporation if these charges are true but it’s made up of little individuals who are equally as amoral.
Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
◗ Mathers Museum of World Cultures — Exhibits, “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”; through July 1st — “Esse Quam Videri (To Be, Rather than To Be Seen): Muslim Self Portraits; through June 17th — “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”; through July 1st, 9am-4:30pm
◗ American Red Cross — Thursday Book Sale; 9am-4pm
◗ City Hall — Today’s 1st Public Input Session for Switchyard Park; Noon
◗ Bloomington, Citywide — IU’s Arts Week Everywhere 2012; Ongoing, various times
◗ IU Grunwald (SOFA) Gallery — MFA & BFA Thesis 3 exhibitions; through May 5th
◗ IU Dunn Meadow — Rent-a-Puppy, play with puppies fundraiser for Bloomington Animal Shelter; 1pm
◗ IU Cinema — Lecture, Irene Taylor Brodsky discusses her documentary film, “Hear and Now”; 3pm
Irene Taylor Brodsky
◗ Meadowood Retirement Community — Five Star Chef Challenge; 3:30-6:30pm
◗ IU Memorial Union, Whittenberger Auditorium — Presentation, Gayle Cook talks about “The Mystic of the Domes”; 4pm
◗ City Hall — Today’s 2nd Public Input Session for Switchyard Park; 5:30pm
◗ Bear’s Place — Aha! Quintet CD release party; 5:30pm
◗ IU Assembly Hall — IU Men’s Basketball 2012 Awards; 6pm
◗ Rhino’s All Ages Music Club — Benefit concert for Abilities Unlimited featuring Elmo Taylor and Don’t Call Me Betty; 6:30pm
◗ Pictura Gallery — Artist talk with Russian photographer Evgenia Arbugaeva; 7-8pm
◗ IU Memorial Union, Alumni Hall — Das Racist; 7pm
◗ IU Cinema — Documentary film, “Hear and Now,” by Irene Taylor Brodsky; 7pm
◗ Rachael’s Cafe — Drunken Moon Cabaret; 7:30-9pm
◗ The Player’s Pub — Open Mic; 7:30pm
◗ Yogi’s Grill — Poker; 7:30pm
◗ IU Auditorium — Musical, “Young Frankenstein”; 8pm
◗ Cafe Django — Seth Tsui Jazz Quartet; 8-10pm
◗ IU Memorial Union, Whittenberger Auditorium — Film, “The Artist”; 8 & 11pm
◗ Comedy Attic — Kumail Nanjiani; 8pm
◗ Bear’s Place — Karaoke; 9pm
◗ Max’s Place — Whiskey Mystic; 9pm
◗ The Bishop — Sweetback Sisters; 9:30pm