Let's live a little

Art Buchwald

May 18, 1993|By Art Buchwald

THEY don't tell you the real truth about health care in this country," Peter Connole told me. "The reason health care costs so much is that people don't want to die."

I said, "That's a given, but I don't understand what it's got to do with the spiraling costs of medicine."

"In days gone by Americans did not have the option. They just died at home or on the golf course, and everyone at the funeral parlor agreed that it was 'God's will.' Nowadays citizens insist on staying alive no matter what it costs the taxpayers."

"I guess you can't blame them."

"The truth is," Connole continued, "that the medical profession hasn't failed us. If anything -- it's too successful. Physicians can perform miracles to keep someone breathing until that person is in his or her 90s. Just watch Willard Scott on the 'Today' show when he announces someone's 100th birthday. He used to spend all week digging up five candidates. Now he has thousands to choose from. This all comes from medical break throughs, and someone has to pay for them."

"Meaning you and me?"

"Would you allow a loved one to go to heaven when you know that Blue Cross can save him?"

"No. But as I see it, those who can afford the medical insurance get to live and those who can't pay will never make it to the 'Today' show. Clinton wants to make sure that all people have access to life, liberty and the pursuit of senior-citizen discounts on airplanes."

"I thought that with greater volume costs would go down, but in this country the price keeps going up."

Connole explained, "That's because in order to keep someone alive it takes a much larger team. In the past when everyone said bye-bye at 65, one doctor and one nurse were involved. These days hundreds of people are present -- from skilled surgeons to the hospital cooks who prepare your salt-free meals. All these folks have to be compensated for their skills because each of them plays a role in keeping the patient alive.

"That's where the money goes -- that and the profits hospitals make on their parking lots."

"So every time we see Willard Scott announcing someone's 100th birthday, it's going to cost all of us."

Connole nodded, "The greatest mistake the country made was to develop lifesaving methods for the population without setting aside the funds for their continued care. What I resent is that Hillary and her gang of 3,400 health experts won't level with the public. They should warn everyone that if medical advances continue at this pace, nobody's going to die and nobody will be able to pay for everyone's upkeep."

"There must be a better solution to the problem than that. Maybe Willard Scott could hold a telethon every morning and people could pledge money to keep everyone breathing, or perhaps we could have a surcharge tax for anyone who lives past 85."

Connole said, "I would rather open gambling casinos in hospital wards and let the winnings pay for people's medical care. We would have slot machines in the halls all the way to the operating rooms. The most important thing that Hillary has to do now is tell the American people that there is no such thing as a free heart transplant on the Willard Scott show."

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