I have The Policy

-Bill Affolter, M.D.

[...] when I was struggling with the issue of how complex the science and technology of medicine had become and with the idea that maintaining good health seemed so complicated and beyond the understanding of the layman, [I had the following dream.] In my dream I was driving along a snowy road with big snow banks on each side of the road. I was in a hurry to get to a patient's home and not driving carefully. I noticed a car behind me that was going slowly but still keeping up with me as I fishtailed down the road. Eventually I slid off the road and got stuck. The car behind me stopped to help and it was driven by one of my patients, a woman in her 50s. She offered to give me a ride and after I got in the car I asked her how she avoided going off the road.

"Well I have chains and I drive carefully -after all I have The Policy" she answered. "What's The Policy?" I asked. "Well, I'm going to see my insurance agent. Why don't you come with me and he'll tell you." Soon we walked into her agent's office- It looked like something out of a 1950's Saturday Evening Post cover, and sitting at a roll top desk was her agent and it was, to my great surprise, Bob Monroe, a now retired Family Doctor who was my mentor when I first came to Group Health. He was the archetype of the Family Doctor with a kind face a grey mustache and gold rimmed glasses. "Bob" I exclaimed "I didn't know you sold insurance!" "Why yes" he said I sell "The Policy." "So I hear" I replied,

"But what is it?" "Why I sent you one but you never returned it." "Well, I get so much mail and I'm so busy, I must have overlooked it or recycled it. Could I see a copy?"

"Certainly." He opened a drawer and pulled out a 50 or so page document. It was divided into multiple sections, one for heart disease, one for accidents, one for depression one for cancer prevention and on an on. I opened to heart disease. There were a number of statements with a box in front to the statement to initial. I will exercise twenty minutes a day, I'll keep my weight down, and I'll eat a low fat diet, and so on. The accident section had similar statements,, I'll always wear a helmet while biking, I'll always buckle my seat belt, I'll obey the speed limit, and so on. Now these were all great recommendations although as I read through it I realized that if this was really my policy I might have trouble signing off on every one of the statements. I looked up after a few moments and said to Bob, "This is great, how much does it cost?" Not surprisingly he answered, "It doesn't cost anything, you just have to sign it."