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When it comes to health care, bet on the pets

August 31, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

Do I have this right? President Bush comes to the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and a few people are excluded. Sen. John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, comes to the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and a few people are included.

It's neat that Berkeley County is attracting the big political guns, although when it became a bellwether, I don't know: "As goes Vanclevesville, so goes the nation."

Heinz Kerry was here to discuss "issues" among a select few, more specifically the health-care issue. You could only attend if you got an invitation.

Teresa. Honey. Where was my invitation? I have a lot to say about health care. In fact, don't get me started on health care. But I'm curious - are you broaching the health issue because you saw what a marvelous success and political triumph it turned out to be for Hillary Clinton?

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There's a winning stratagem. Don't you remember those Thelma and Louise commercials, or whatever they were? If you want to get elected, dah-ling, you can't talk about anything that matters. You'll get killed.

If you want to talk about health care, Social Security, the cuts we'll have to make to address the federal deficit, or how we need to get parents to put down the crack pipe long enough to spoon a little carrot mush into the mouths of their infants - well, might just as well parade around Martinsburg with a sign around your neck saying "Do not vote for my husband; he leaves the toilet seat up."

No one cares about issues, you hear me? Or if they do care, they don't want to hear about any "unpleasantness" it will take to address these issues. Sure, we all want to fix Social Security - unless it will push our retirement ages back or cost us one dime out of our checks.

And health care? Pooh. Let me give you the facts. On one side is a single mom, with about $273.28 in her checking account and a kid with a nasty, nagging cough. On the other side are the monolithic lawyer, insurance and physician interests with about $942 billion and an army of lobbyists and bought-and-paid-for members of Congress happily lapping up all financial swill that's being bucketed into their campaign troughs.

Tell me. Which pony you gonna bet on?

"Boy that's a close call, Monty, but I think I'll go for the kid with the cough."

"Zzzzttt. Oh, sorry, you were so close ..."

The T-girl says we're "at a crossroads" in the arena of health care. No we're not. A crossroads implies a way out. Instead, we're at the bottom of a 20-mile well. And getting your photo, frowning with concern, on the front page with Sharon Rockefeller ain't going to do doodily squat, because even if you genuinely want to help, the system these days won't let you. All you'll get for your trouble is a happy little brand across the forehead saying "Communistic She-Devil," placed there by all the people who profit so handsomely from the status quo.

So what else is in the news today, Onix the Raccoon? Beautiful. I see a Missouri woman was sponsoring something called, no lie, a "prayer vigil for Onix's safe return home. At that time we will hold hands via Internet and pray."

You have to credit the American people; they choose their battles wisely. No sense Instant Messaging the Almighty over the kid with the nagging cough because the national health-care system is beyond even his control.

People wonder why folks get more worked up over an animal than a child, and this is the reason. At least with the animal, you feel as if you have a chance.

How can I be so blas? Because I've gone black-ops on health care. I keep a little, cheap, catastrophic insurance, but outside of that everything is strictly cash-basis. I buy a checkup the same way I would buy an oil change. I found a cool doctor on Dual Highway who operates outside the arena of the insurance goons. I thought it would cost a little more to free myself from the insurance company strings, but it hasn't. If you're relatively healthy, you save more on premiums than you spend on bronchitis. Plus, you don't have to make an appointment six years in advance and the wait is never more than a few minutes. How sweet is that?

Notice, Teresa, that it took someone in the private sector to noodle this through. Sending this physician an invitation to your tea party might have been a good start.

Or not. Either way, I'm down with what you're trying to do, regardless of the chances of success. But don't count on my help, because I have more important rows to hoe.

"... Dear Lord, bless this raccoon and all those who dwell in the house of the raccoon ..."

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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