The play is after the jump!
Play #5 - Voluntary Conditions
(The office of Sue Sharp, a young trim Human Resources representative of BayRise Inc. She finishes typing an email and sends it. She opens up her pocket mirror and quickly checks her hair and lipstick. She puts it back. She gets up swiftly and marches over to her door. She opens it. We hear her call to someone outside.)
Sue - Cindy, I’ll see you now.
(Sue returns to her desk, followed after a beat by Cindy Moore, a professional similarly aged woman. She is significantly overweight. She is upset but keeping it together She has some documents in her hand)
Sue - Would you mind shutting the door? Thank you. (Cindy does) Please have a seat.
(Cindy sits in the chair opposite the desk.)
Sue - So. How are you doing Cindy?
Cindy - Not very well, actually.
Sue - I’m sorry to hear that. I hope we can take care of that. What seems to be the problem?
Cindy - (handing the papers over to Linda) Three days ago, I received this in the mail.
Sue - (looking it over) Hmm.. mm. I see..
Cindy - And I want it explained to me.
Sue - Well, according to this document PlusLife Health, our insurance subsidiary has revoked your coverage.
Cindy - Yeah. I can read.
Sue - All right now. Let’s remain calm. I’m still reading...
Cindy - I’m sorry. I’m just very upset.
Sue - Yes. Well we’ll get this sorted out.
Cindy - Is it some computer glitch? Did my name get mixed up?
Sue - (typing on her computer) Well, we can check on that for you...
Cindy - I’d appreciate it. I’m not-- I’m not being let go, am I?
Sue - I’m not authorized to comment on personnel changes at the moment. But you would be given prior notice before anything like that happened.
Cindy - I’ve been a good worker. I’ve been a hard working employee.I’ve given twelve years of my life to this company.
Sue - Now let’s settle down. There’s been no talk of downsizing.
Cindy - I hope not. I’ve got a brother out there. He’s been looking for a job for two years.
Sue - While, again, I’m not authorized to speak on specific cases, I can tell you that BayRise is not currently looking to reduce its resource.
Cindy - Well good. That’s one less worry. Have you found anything?
Sue - I’m sorry. PlusLife’s website can be a little cumbersome to navigate.
Cindy - Tell me about it. I tried to get someone on the phone. I was put on hold for two hours and then told that all the representatives who could answer my question had gone home for the day.
Sue - Yes. This can be frustrating. But they are a very good provider.
Cindy - I know! That’s why I don’t want to lose their coverage.
Sue - We’ll get to the bottom of this... (keeps typing, more clicks in silence)... and there. Okay.
Cindy - You pulled it up?
Sue - I have.
Cindy - And what does it say?
Sue - Let’s see... scrolling down... and... I see.
Cindy - What? What is it?
Sue - It seems your policy was cancelled due to a voluntary condition which violates the terms of your PlusLife Health agreement.
Cindy - Violation? What violation?
Sue - Your voluntary condition.
Cindy - What does that mean?
Sue - It’s a condition that’s voluntary which violates the terms of your policy.
Cindy - What violation?
Sue - Your voluntary condition.
Cindy - I still don’t know what that means!
Sue - Well it’s classified here as...
Cindy - Yes?
Sue - Morbid obesity.
Cindy - What?
Sue - I’m afraid, looking here, that last year PlusLife Health no longer covers members with voluntary medical conditions. Opiate addictions, tobacco use, and... morbid obesity. Which... according to your last physical... you are.
Cindy - Oh.
Sue - I’m sorry. But this is an internal policy matter of PlusLife Health.
Cindy - … So... that’s it?
Sue - I’m sorry?
Cindy - That’s the end of the conversation?
Sue - I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do.
Cindy - You’re supposed to provide your employees with medical insurance.
Sue - So long as they don’t violate the conditions of said insurance.
Cindy - And I violated it by... it’s all right, you can say it.
Sue - By having a voluntary condition.
Cindy - By being fat. I’m being denied my policy because of my weight.
Sue - That’s the short end of it.
Cindy - Right. Because God knows fat people don’t need medical services.
Sue - No. I think it’s the opposite problem, actually.
Cindy - So what am I supposed to do?
Sue - I would recommend getting a new provider as soon as possible.
Cindy - Out of my own pocket.
Sue - For the time being, yes.
Cindy - What does that mean? Is the policy going to change?
Sue - No. But as the condition is voluntary, as some point in the future...
Cindy - You mean, if I lost all this weight.
Sue - … I’m sure that PlusHealth Life would reconsider your policy if your condition improved.
Cindy - Huh...
Sue - (standing up) Now, if there’s anything else I can help you with--
Cindy - There is, actually.
Sue - (sitting back down) All right.
Cindy - You can find me another provider.
Sue - I’m sorry, but as I said before, that’s not within our purview.
Cindy - Then BayRise can drop its partnership with PlusHealth and find an insurance company that won’t discriminate against its own employees.
Sue - Now BayRise takes discrimination cases very seriously, but this is not an issue of discrimination.
Cindy - Yes. Yes it is. I’m being denied my insurance because I’m fat.
Sue - Granted, the insurance company has elected to retire your policy due to your Body Mass Index.
Cindy - Fat. You can say it. It’s just a word. F-A-T. Fat.
Sue - BayRise doesn’t condone the use of that word. We find it has judgemental connotations.
Cindy - And denying me medical insurance because of my weight isn’t judgemental?
Sue - It isn’t our policy.
Cindy - They’re your subsidiary! By signing up employees with HealthPlus, you tacitly endorse all of their policies!
Sue - BayLife does not recognize liability due to the actions of partnered organizations.
Cindy - But you’re the ones who chose to partner with them in the first place.
Sue - If you would like to register a formal complaint, I can give you a form that will be sent to our complaints officer.
Cindy - I thought you were the complaints officer.
Sue - I am.
Cindy - And how would you judge my complaint?
Sue - I don’t know. I haven’t seen the form.
Cindy - I’m making my complaint in person.
Sue - I prefer forms.
Cindy - But I’m not a form. I’m a living breathing person right in front of you.
Sue - If things aren’t properly documented and channeled the world lapses into chaos.
Cindy - Give me the form then. I’ll fill it out now.
Sue - I’m sorry. But it takes three to four weeks to process. If you’d like we can schedule another appointment at that time.
Cindy - No. I want this settled now.
Sue - I’m afraid that’s impossible.
Cindy - Well then you’re going to have to call a forklift, because this fat ass isn’t going anywhere.
(beat. Stare down. Cindy wins.)
(Sue sits back in her chair frustrated. She drums her fingers on the desk. After a moment:)
Sue - Have you considered a gym membership?
Cindy - Excuse me?
Sue - I know it’s sort of hard, when you’re first starting out, but it can get addicting. I feel like my morning hasn’t really begun until I’ve run a few miles and hit the gym showers.
Sue - I’m just saying.
Cindy - Was that supposed to be some sort of non sequitur?
Sue - I’m sorry.
Cindy - Why are you telling me to join a gym?
Sue - I was trying to make conversation.
Cindy - Because THAT’S the reason I’m here.
Sue - Look, I understand that you’re frustrated and upset, but as I’ve been reiterating, BayRise can’t--
Cindy - Why did you bring up the gym?
Sue - It was just a suggestion.
Cindy - Because maybe if I go to the gym I’d lose a little weight, is that it?
Sue - I’d say it couldn’t hurt.
Cindy - So you believe this crap? You believe that I don’t deserve my insurance coverage because--
Sue - No. But I don’t believe an insurance company should be forced into a lopsided liability issue due to a lifestyle choice.
Cindy - Lifestyle choice?
Sue - Voluntary condition.
Cindy - My “condition” is not “voluntary”! I’m fat. I was a fat little girl, I’m a fat woman, and I’m going to die fat fat fat. This isn’t something I chose. This isn’t something I like. This is just who I am. Running around on a treadmill isn’t going to change that.
Sue - Hmm.
Cindy - What’s that supposed to mean?
Sue - I didn’t say anything.
Cindy - No, you made a little noise.
Sue - Hmm.
Cindy - There! You made it again! It was like a judgmental little hum.
Sue - It was just a noise.
Cindy - No. NO. You don’t get to do that. You don’t get to make a noise that conveys everything you want to say without being brave enough to actually say it. You’re judging me. You are. You think I’m fat by choice.
Sue - I didn’t say that.
Cindy - But you think it, don’t you. Don’t you? Answer me!
Sue - … I’m going to answer that question by asking one of you: What did you have for lunch today?
Cindy - What does that have to do with anything?
Sue - If it doesn’t mean anything, then why don’t you answer the question?
Cindy - Because it’s not any of your business.
Sue - Then what are we even talking about??
Cindy - It is none of your business! Or BayRise’s business, or PlusHealth Life’s business how I choose to live my life.
Sue - So you admit it. You “choose” to live that way.
Cindy - It isn’t that simple!
Sue - Isn’t it? It’s seems like a pretty easy calculation. Calories come in. Calories go out. If more calories come in than are expended, those calories are stored in the body. You gain weight. If fewer calories go in than are expended, you lose weight. It’s simple math. Your voluntary condition, a condition that neither BayRise nor PlusHealth should have to bear undue risk for, is exactly that: voluntary.
Sue - You cannot blame this organization for choices you make on your own volition. Don’t think of this experience as a final sentence. Think of this as an incentive to make changes in the way you choose to live.
Cindy - I don’t know what it’s like to be skinny. I don’t know what it’s like to be someone like you. In school I was the “fat girl”. (singing a child’s taunt) “Cindy Moore. What’s she say to food? More! More! More!” Kids are cruel. So are adults. I... hate myself. I look at everyone in their skinny little outfits enjoying their skinny little lives, and I feel like this hideous grotesque blob, this wart on the face of humanity. My car had to go in for repairs two years ago. I had to take the bus into work. When I got on, I could feel people’s eyes on me. “Look. At. Her.” I sat by myself in a row of two and watched the bus fill up, get crowded, people standing all around me, but nobody, not one person, took the seat next to me. I see it on the faces of people at the elevator. “I’ll catch the next one” they say. Or they don’t say anything at all. They just look down at the ground. They look conspicuously at anything else. It’s the irony of my life. You wouldn’t think someone so large could be so invisible. People go out after work. I never get asked. It has been years since I went on a date, and those experiences were uncomfortable and humiliating and ultimately very very sad. I don’t look at myself in the mirror. I try not to think about myself very much at all. You talk about incentivizing me to change my lifestyle. I think there’s something that you people don’t understand. I don’t need any other incentives. If I could change this (gestures to her body), if I could change me, if I could change who I am, don’t you think I would do so?
Sue - Have you looked into seeing a therapist for depression?
Cindy - I had a therapist. She was paid for by my insurance.
(She gets up and walks to the door.)
Sue - Cindy... I’m sorry...
Cindy - I know. But your hands are tied.
(Cindy exits and closes the door behind her. Sue continues to sit, looking at the vacant chair.)