8z: Revenant riders and OzombaCare.

Well, I found out why we are doing so many elderly zombies.

I should start at the beginning. I hadn’t really thought too much about the recent history of zombism, but it’s interesting. I will try to catch up more later, but most of what I’ve learned in the last day or so came from Wikipedia.

Anyway, to start with, you have to bear in mind that up to just before the Second World War, being a zombie was as good as being dead. In those days, zombies were just incinerated, no questions asked. The attitude toward zombies changed quite a bit during World War II and immediately after, for a couple of reasons. First was the semi- successful deployment of the Undead Expeditionary Force in the European theater (the famous/infamous “Bradley’s Ghoulie Group”), which basically just involved dumping zombies behind enemy lines in large numbers via airdrops (using timed parachutes) and letting them do their thing. It was actually these zombie soldiers that used the first zombulkes, but those were prone to fail and so wide-scale military deployment of flamethrowers was necessary. Unfortunately, zombie penetration into civilian centers also ended up requiring massive carpet-bombing campaigns, and so use of zombies in warfare became limited. Eventually it was declared a form of biological warfare and made illegal, but I guess back at that time they were sort of considered to be morally equivalent to landmines.

Gathering and storing zombies for deployment led to a different attitude toward zombies, with the realization that they could be maintained safely for an indefinite period of time. Meanwhile, conversion among soldiers in the European theater was particularly high, at least partially because of their sometimes being bitten by the weaponized zombies used by both sides. By the end of the war, most of the soldiers who had served in combat roles in Europe had known someone who had been zombified.

Meanwhile back at home, there was a major manpower shortage, combined with a wage freeze. Since employers were unable to attract workers with higher wages, they used various benefit schemes. Among those benefits was health insurance. Zombism was of course not covered at first, but returning soldiers began to insist that, should they convert to zombies, they would like to be stored indefinitely rather than incinerated. The idea, of course, was that they were hoping to be cured. It was an optimistic period. Health insurance policies began offering “revenant riders”, covering indefinite storage and eventual cure (should one be found). The truth is that these were money-makers for the insurance companies – zombie storage is extremely cheap. Medicare/Medicaid started covering storage under pressure from the various groups, especially the California-based Church of Living-Dead Saints, which saw zombism as a necessary precursor to immortality and which actually had a surprising amount of political clout back in the 1980s. However, Medicaid didn’t promise to cover cures for zombism, just as most insurance doesn’t cover a cure for other, less active forms of death.

In the last 8 years, there was as you know a major overhaul of the insurance industry, with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The zombie-care policy was tackled very thoughtfully (through so-called OzombaCare), covering both storage and cure – but not covering any procedures performed after zombification. In fact, postmortem procedures are generally explicitly forbidden by OzombaCare plans. You will recall that famous case of the zombie whose family wanted his arms and legs removed so that he could be safely situated by the sand trap of his favorite golf course, and tried to get Medicaid to pay for it. That was a long time ago, but there was such a public outcry over these sorts of abuses of taxpayer money that basically Medicare/Medicaid have banned any postzombification procedures at all. Although OzombaCare is distinct from Medicare/Medicaid, its policies have tended to keep the no-postmortem-procedures stipulation. The more expensive private policies are usually more nuanced. And anyway, suppose Medicare/Medicaid could be coaxed to cover a converted ex-zombie — after you do the conversion, you’re basically left with an ICU full of severely ill patients on Medicaid. Bottom line is, the Institute does not get reimbursed as well if I bite zombies with public health insurance. They could even end up losing money, strange as it sounds.

This is why I am converting mostly elderly zombies. The administration has decided that the way to make this into a profit center is to only convert the zombies whose aftercare (the code, the surgeries, etc) is guaranteed to be covered. The zombies we are concentrating on were wealthier and had better insurance before they converted.

Dr. N just straight-up told Nick and me this, all while eating a rotisserie chicken in my little improvised kitchen. She had just come from a discussion with the CFO and some other business types.

I tried to hide my shock. “Doesn’t that seem to run against, you know, our commitment to patient care above all? I mean, we always talk about how that stuff doesn’t matter, how we live our ethics…..” Dr. N didn’t look up from the chicken she was pulling apart with her fingers. “Well yes, we all believe that, everyone believes it. But we have to keep the doors open and the lights on. If we go bankrupt we don’t help anyone.” She paused for another mouthful. “Anyway, your duty to help the patient is the same, whether they are poor or rich. Just because these people are rich, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t help them.” She took a pull on her cup of tea and went back to disassembling her chicken. “You know, health care is about to undergo a major change in this country. No one knows what’s going to happen, but OzombaCare is probably going down in a few days. And it will not become a revenant!” She chortled at her own joke. “But what comes next? We are going to have to be flexible. Who knows what the new administration will do?”

I caught Nick’s eye. He shook his head. I’ve spent weeks biting the shins of animated corpses, and today’s the first day I really felt disgust.

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