Thursday, July 9, 2009

Health-care controversy awaits the sausage mill

In the past two weeks, I've attended two benefit concerts to raise money for musicians to pay their medical bills, and that is just ridiculous. Why should anyone, least of all a valuable contributing member of society, have to pass the hat to pay the doctor? But there I was, watching one of America's few true-blue cowboy singers hoist himself on crutches onto the stage to sing "The Old Chisholm Trail" as we put our twenties in the pot to pay for his pelvis, broken when a horse threw him. A cowboy singer can afford only the $10,000 deductible health plan and that means that he must sell Old Paint or become a charity case.

Meanwhile, a friend visiting London forgets to look to the right while crossing the street and gets whacked by a taxi and is scooped up and taken to the hospital with a broken leg where -- wait for it -- nobody ever asks him for an insurance card, they just go about doing what needs to be done. A civilized people, whatever you may think of the beer, that they treat a fallen American the same as if he were one of them.

Health insurance is the business that Congress is taking up this summer with the help of hundreds of high-paid lobbyists, many of them former congressmen or congressional staffers, all of them arguing for schemes that will be good for the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance companies and not necessarily good for the cowboy or the careless pedestrian. Reports the size of Sears catalogs will be circulated, and smart men and women smelling of citrus and sandalwood will argue persuasively and extensively for all points of view.

Our representatives will face pages and pages of statistics, acres of numerals, and even as they wander in the great fog of data and expertise, they will be at least as confused as the rest of us. Somehow out of this dance hall and sausage mill will come legislation that must stand the light of day, a miracle if it should happen, and then we shall see if the common good was served or if we have been sold down the river into the hands of cheats and scoundrels.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-oped0708keillorjul08,0,3885377.column

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