Dianne Majzoub - Fiction

Chipping Away 

by Dianne Majzoub

Universal health care was finally law, and Dotty sat bouncing on a bus to the first step in getting her life-long acne problem treated. “I’ll call the dermatologist right from the pre-clinic just as soon as they implant my eligibility chip.”

Mel chuckled at her excitement. “Ya know I love ya, Dot—pimples and all.” He squeezed her hand, then harrumphed. “But I don’t like the sound of this chip thing. Why do we need a chip stuck inside us? Why not just give us a card or something?”

“Don’t be such a fuddy-duddy, Mel. You can’t lose a chip inside your arm, and you’ll have it for five years. Besides, it will have all your medical history on it. The doctors will only have to do is scan it, and they’ll know all your conditions and medications and everything. The News said it’s all about cutting costs.”

“Why do we have to go to a ‘pre-clinic’ to get our chip? I heard folks that pay the tax up-front get their chips right at their doctor’s office—costs ‘em an arm and leg, but no ‘pre-clinic’. And, if they’re paying so much, how can we get it for free. And why do we have to be fasting for this?” Mel was always grumpy before breakfast.

“First off, folks like us don’t have a doctor’s office. It’s been years since anyone I know has seen a doctor. Second, as far as us getting it for free, the News said it’s all about the special tax the government came up with to pay for it. And third, you’re fasting so they can do blood work for the information on your chip. Us poor folk can finally see doctors, and your grumping about it. Just think of it, you’ll get that pain in your shoulder checked out—once you got your chip.”

“I hate to break it to you, Dot, but I’m not getting a chip. It’s creepy.” Mel released her hand and crossed his arms. “As long as I can still afford aspirin, the pain in my shoulder is fine.”

“Don’t be an idiot! You have to get your chip! What if that pain is something serious? Besides, I made our appointments almost a year ago.”

Mel huffed.

“Give me your hand.” She pulled his hand free of his arm and held it in both of hers. “We’re in this together, so we’re both going down with the chip.” She winked and snorted.

He sighed conceding defeat.

The ‘no appointment’ line wrapped around the pre-clinic like a coiled snake. Dotty lead Mel through the door marked ‘Appointments Only’. A girl at the desk took down their information, had them sign a stack of forms, slipped bands with their names and a number on each of their wrists, and asked them to take a seat until they were called.

As soon as they were seated, Mel whispered, “I don’t like this, Dot. This place smells like a slaughter house, and what were all those forms? Did you read them?” He tugged at his band.

“Just relax. No, I didn’t read the forms, but I listened to what the girl said they were for. Besides, you have to sign ‘em if you want your chip.”

“Dotty?” A nurse called. “I’ll be back for you in a moment,” she said to Mel when he rose to accompany her.

“Can’t we stay together?” Mel stammered.

“Afraid not. Each person is seen separately. It’s the rules.”

Dotty was led to a room where the nurse recorded her height and weight, drew several vials of blood, and asked her to urinate into a jar.

“What’s this for?” Dotty asked pointing to the IV the nurse inserted into her hand.

“Standard practice,” she murmured while she injected something into the line. “It will take about an hour to get your results fed into the assessor, then the doctors will be in; and when all is done, you’ll have your chip and free medical care for the next five years.”

Dotty’s eyes were already closing as the nurse left the room.

Dotty awoke to sound of rattling carts, beeps and buzzes, and unfamiliar voices. A row of doctors with electronic pads greeted her.

“What happened?” She whispered. A sharp pain prevented her sitting-up. Her fingers found three small wounds and one larger one on her side. “All this just to implant my medical chip?”

The doctor nearest her head took her hand. “You’ll be happy to know that your chip is safely implanted just under your wrist here.” He pointed at a little red dot. “Now you can get medically necessary services from any doctor, and all your prescriptions are covered, too.”

Dotty’s free hand went to her face. “I’m calling a dermatologist as soon as I’m out of here.”

“Um, I’m afraid acne treatment isn’t a medically necessary service. You’ll have to purchase insurance for that—the old-fashioned way.”

Dotty’s mouth fell open. “So, what’s all this with my side?”

“This part,” he waived his hand over her side, “was your tax assessment payment. You were one of the lucky ones—getting assessed for a kidney. You’ll be all healed-up in a few weeks, and you won’t even miss it. I feel for the ones who get assessed for corneas.” He sighed. “But, well, at least it’s only one eye.”

Dotty’s mouth fell open. She looked about the huge room filled with post-surgical patients. “You must be collecting thousands of organs. You have that many transplants?”

“Well, no. It seems it’s the in-thing for the wealthy to serve human kidney pie and human liver pate at their dinner parties. We just got an order for more than forty kidneys for one party. Needless to say, they paid a fortune for them.”

Dotty grimaced. “Do they eat the corneas, too?”

“Oh no, those are strictly for implants. That’s why they hardly ever get assessed.”

Dotty snorted.

“What is it?” the doctor asked.

“My husband, Mel, he said this chip thing would cost some people an arm and a leg.”

“Not at this time, but maybe in a few years when the transplant surgery improves, or if rich people develop a taste for them. Anyway, I’m sure only an arm or a leg would be assessed.”

When the doctors left, Dotty searched the room for Mel. He sat in a bed across the aisle, his fingers trembling against a bandage covering his empty left eye socket.