‘The Mindy Project’ and Medical Bills

Back in June when the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, I wrote a post that explained how the implementation of the law would eventually change medical procedurals. In particular, as more and more patients come onto the insurance roles, shows aren’t going to be able to demonstrate that doctors are compassionate by having them take on uninsured patients in defiance of hospital bureaucrats or the policies of their private practices. That’s something that The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling’s promising new sitcom for Fox, does in its pilot episode: Mindy, an OB/GYN, takes on a conservative Muslim woman as a patient, telling her son that he has to promise her the family will be insured by the time his mother gives birth, even if it’s a lie, so Mindy can take her on as a patient.

On Tuesday, the people behind the show suggested they would take on another aspect of medical practice: medical bill collection. The show is adding Amanda Setton, who will play Shauna, the receptionist and person responsible for collecting bills at Mindy’s private practice. And the show says she’ll be tough about it. “I think Shauna would literally handcuff a pregnant lady to get her to pay her,” executive producer Matt Warburton. And Kaling added “she thinks of herself like a sexy bounty hunter.” I’ll be fascinated to see how that plays out, how much sympathy the show has for patients who are facing fees that seem disproportionate to the attention or benefit they’ve received, and if Shauna goes after insurance companies for reimbursements as well.

But however it plays out, I’m heartened that as House, one of the biggest medical dramas on television, departs the airwaves, some of the new medical programs that are coming after it, even if they aren’t direct replacements, are thinking beyond the operating room or the diagnostic process. Call the Midwife, which I wrote about yesterday, is as much about what the advent of the National Health Service allows doctors to do as how they do it. And if The Mindy Project ends up being about how people pay for their care as much as how the titular character delivers it, that would be a real landmark.