Chiro Noir Redux

By John Hanks, DC

Editor's note: this is the third installment in Dr. Hanks' "Private Chiropractor" series; part 1 appeared in the Nov. 18, 2004 issue, while part 2 ran in the Oct. 7, 2009 issue.

It is the tail end of the fifth decade of the 21st century. Health care in the United States is controlled by huge international corporations. Doctors of all kinds must work for one of them or risk professional alienation and financial ruin. The corporations keep detailed provider profiles including information on a doctor's temperment and personal hygiene. The government has quit printing cash and all providers are paid in "credits" controlled by the megabanks.

I'd practiced chiropractic for a long time and finally got fed up with the tyranny. I changed to a barter system, moved the office to a nondescript building in a forgotten part of the metropolis, and went "underground." That's me: "Johnny Hawks, Private Chiropractor."

The trend for insurance companies to hire their own doctors started way back in the 2010s, before Omegacare was fully implemented. The companies took this idea from the original nonprofit HMOs like Kaiser. But the decidedly for-profit United Healthcare led the trend when it bought Monarch Healthcare, a California group of 2,300 doctors (The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 1, 2011). Within a matter of a few years, small medical practices were virtually wiped out.

One of the other refugees of the "system" was Earl Benson MD. He had worked for both Wellnessco Healthcorp (The old Wellmart) and Healthcare Extraordinare. But one day, rumor has it he "snapped" and tried to choke an administrator with a stethescope, eventually spending some time in jail.

Doc Benson evolved into an old-time "holistic" medical doctor and practiced out of his attic for a long time before he retired. I met him at Mike's Elbow Room many years ago in the 2030s. The tavern was hosting the annual chili contest, and Doc won with his boiled ham-bone recipe. We liked each other right away, probably because he appreciated my Cilantro Woodchuck Chili. Not many people like woodchuck meat, but Doc Benson ate two bowls.

I was about to leave the office one evening when Marge, my assistant, stopped me. "Doc is coming over, so hold your horses," she informed me, with her typical deadpan look. "He promised some interesting news." Marge has been with me so long that we both have forgotten how she joined the practice in the first place.

Doc walked in a few minutes later. "Life just gets stranger" he chuckled. "The word on the street is that MDs are learning to be chiropractors!" It turns out that Doc had talked to another rogue physician friend, who shared how he had been taking instruction in body manipulation.

"It's no wonder. These estranged physicians are looking to add any treatment they can to make themselves more competitive in the barter market." Doc looked pensive. "You know what started this, don't you?"

I did. Years ago, Big Pharma and the multinational health care corporations (MHCs) had merged and become indistinguishable. They decided that manual medicine and hands-on treatment were too successful, and were cutting down on the amount of drugs that were being sold, thus decreasing profits. Consequently, a pharmaceutical company called Zandopa bought the entire osteopathic profession with venture capital from the Goldman Morgan investment bank. DOs could only do primary care; no manipulation.

Coupled with tight referral restrictions on the physical therapists and institutional DCs, manipulation and spinal adjustments became rare. Even with the failure of Big Pharma to find a vaccine for spinal pain, it was almost impossible to get any MHC to refer to a chiropractor or PT, as long as there was a drug that might substitute.

"Doc, are these renegade MDs becoming any good at using their hands?" I queried. He just handed me my coat and said, "Let's go find out!" We took the Magnatrain to an old warehouse district, walked until we reached a dead-end alley, and opened an obscure door. Behind it was a large warehouse space with about a dozen adjustment/treatment tables scattered around.

"Johnny, I want you to meet some people" Doc said. One teacher was an old DO, doing the best he could on a walker, balancing his oxygen tank. I was embarrassed since all these physician students treated me like a rock star. Very few of them had ever met a real chiropractor.

The instruction was mediocre. It was like having someone trained to hang drywall teaching fine cabinet making. We underground doctors always have The Man looking for us, so I felt some kinship. But we are still tribal. I was asked to teach technique to them and politely refused, because I want my chiropractic tribe to be the best in this arena. Doc Benson agrees. He has one heck of an unstable right sacroiliac and will not let anyone else touch it but a DC!

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