Minnetonka, Minneapolis--Led by managed care giant United Healthcare (NASDAQ code: X$%^&*$#%^$^ subscribers), all major HMOS in the United States have removed all antibiotics from their formularies due to rising pharmaceutical prices and the necessity of keeping executives' salaries high.
This decision follows last year's decision to eliminate all mental health coverage and replace it with a cassette of pop music and pithy saying that subscribers can play at stressful times, provided they purchase the "dedicated" cassette player (only $49!) needed to play the relaxation tape.
"We have found that much of the shrimp imported from Asia is an excellent source of choramphenicol, which is a very very powerful antibiotic," said a spokesperson for United. "Accordingly, we don't feel that we need to pay for antibiotics when our subscribers have a bacterial infection. They can just eat shrimp according to our peer-reviewed and credentialed guidelines."
Here's how it works: a patient who suspects an infection in himself/herself or a family member calls a 900 number (only 49 cents a minute!) and provides a few relevant facts to the TeleNurso such as fever, weight, age, and symptoms such as pain, coughing, sneezing, ear pressure, or runny nose. The TeleNurso will then calculate the amount of shrimp required to cure the infection and, free of charge, provide a recipe.
"For instance, our studies found that strep throat was best handled by soothing dishes, such as shrimp in butter and cream, whereas sinus infections responded better to a spicy shrimp dish containing red pepper and tomatoes." said another spokesperson.
"Patients just have to remember not to buy organic, or natural, shrimp, which does not contain the antibiotics necessary to fight their infections," she added.
The managed care companies are exploring the possibility of eliminating estrogen from their formularies and requiring patients to drink more milk, which contains some hormones. Another possibility for curbing expenditures include eliminating coverage for prescription lenses and requiring all patients to use over-the-counter reading glasses.
What about patients with a bacterial infection who are allergic to shellfish? "Well, there is an appeals process, but it can take a while," said one customer service representative. "My advice is to eat the shrimp and take your chances. Dying of an allergic reaction is less painful than dying from aggravation induced by interaction with insurance companies, and we still do cover treatment for allergic reactions--at least for the short term."