Health care plan gives something for nothing

MIKE ROYKO

September 27, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

I swerved slightly to go around the lean young man who was furiously pedaling his expensive bike. He glanced at me, expecting the glare bicyclists often get from car drivers.

Instead, I smiled and gave him a friendly thumbs-up gesture. He waved back. What a fine young fellow, I thought.

A few minutes later, I was cruising through Lincoln Park, Chicago's yuppie haven, and there was the usual parade of health-conscious young joggers, out for their morning cardiovascular fix.

I beeped my horn, smiled and gave them the thumbs-up gesture, too.

Such admirable lads and lassies, fine-tuning their bodies. I could imagine them eating a bowl of bran for breakfast, a bit of skinless chicken for lunch and maybe having a mild wine spritzer after work. Unless they were going to run another five miles at dusk.

And it made me feel good. Why? Because while shaving that morning (which is the most strenuous exercise I engage in) I had my radio on and an economist was talking about the Clintons' revolutionary health care proposals.

The economist wasn't very enthusiastic. That's because he is a fairly young, healthy economist.

And the way he saw it, healthy, gainfully employed young people -- such as himself and the lad on the bike and the joggers in the park -- would wind up picking up an unfair piece of the tab for maintaining deteriorating bods such as mine.

Because they are young and healthy, they seldom need the services of a doc, unlike a wreck such as myself who is constantly being poked, prodded and prescribed.

But whether they like it or not, need it or not, they will be in the health program and will pay in one way or another.

After hearing that, how could I not feel warmth and affection for those who will be helping pay my way through the frequent aches and pains of my twilight years? Bless their Nike-clad feet.

The economist was also concerned about small businesses: the beauty parlor with two or three workers, the small diner with the same, the tavern with a couple of bartenders and a floor man, the countless small businesses that will have to start paying medical insurance.

But I'm not a beautician, a saloonkeeper or a hamburger flipper, so that lets me off the hook.

And by the time I finished shaving, the radio economist had completely changed my views on a national medical program.

Until he made me realize that I was going to get something for nothing, I had nothing but distrust for the Clinton plan.

My lack of trust is based on a list I once made of things the federal government really does well.

Here is that list:

1. Fight wars.

2. ?

As you can see, it is a short list.

In recent years, we have learned that the federal government isn't very good at watching lending institutions, which is why the S&L scandal is the biggest financial mess in our history.

We also know that the federal government can't protect our borders, which is why we had to finally throw up our hands and tell millions of illegal aliens: "OK, you're here, and there's nothing we can do about it, so just stop by the office and we'll make you legal."

It's not good at preventing tons of dope from flowing into this country to scramble the brains of hundreds of thousands of junkies, who then go on to steal, maim or murder to support their habit.

And it is of little or no help in protecting the victims of the crimes brought on by the drug flow, ghetto life, fatherless little gunmen and other urban frights.

It's absolutely awful at handling money. Even a Skid Row wino maintains a more efficient budget than If the vast majority of Americans have health coverage, leave them alone and find a way to take care of the minority who don't.

does the Congress of the United States. And the Skid Row panhandler probably puts in a harder day's work than the average federal bureaucrat.

Most businessmen will tell you that all the federal government does for them is take a piece of the profit while loading them down with more paperwork.

So I was suspicious about the federal government taking over all medical care.

Especially when I did some reverse math.

The White House kept telling us about the 37 million Americans who are without some form of health coverage. (Many of them by choice, which was never mentioned.) The 37 million became a mantra.

Yes, that's a lot of people. But you can look at it another way. About 220 million Americans have some coverage.

So, in my simple-minded way, I figured that if the vast majority of Americans have some form of health coverage, leave them alone and find a way to take care of the minority who don't. Why throw everything up for grabs and create another army of bureaucrats?

But that was before I learned that I will be one of those who stand to get something for nothing. So from now on, I'm a health-reform cheerleader.

Something for nothing. So what's wrong with that? It's become part of the American Dream.

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