Did you see what Hillary said about the health insurance folks last
She said they were lying in their TV ads about the Clinton health
She said "They like being able to exclude people from coverage
because the more they can exclude, the more money they can make."
She said it's time for us to tell them "Enough is enoughwe want
our health-care system back."
I've always wanted to say things like that but I've been afraid the
health insurance industry would send out an all-points bulletin
declaring my whole body a pre-existing condition and thus exempt from
But I don't see why Hillary's so indignant. Indignation suggests
thwarted expectations. We get indignant when the local minister runs
off with (a) the building fund, and (b) the choir leader. That's
because we in the flock expect better of our shepherd.
But we aren't indignant when our dogs pee on trees. We may not
like it, but we understand peeing on trees is doggy destiny so we just
sigh, gaze into the distance, and pretend not to notice.
So why get indignant when health insurance companies, with malice
toward none, try to make as much money as they can? Most of us just
sigh, gaze into the distance, and pretend not to noticebecause we know
that's why they're in business, their raison d'etre. Their corporate
destiny is to minimize risk and maximize profit, and they can no more
control that instinct than your dog can leave the neighbor's tree
unwetted. That means, if they can get by with it, declaring your whole
body a pre-existing condition.
Well, then, I can hear you saying, why are the Clintons giving
insurance companies such a large role in the reform plan? Why rely on
entities you know are constitutionally more interested in better profits
than in better health care?
And why, I hear you further saying, don't the Clintons just do an
end run around the insurance companies and go for the single-payer plan
where the government itself underwrites our health care?
"Tax it, pay it, and get it over with," proponents of such a plan
say. Government bureaucracy is no worse than insurance company
bureaucracy, and it's not driven by an institutionalized profit motive.
So why, you ask again, don't Bill and Hillary propose that?
I'll tell you.
Because they know the single-payer plan would goose us in our
national logophobia aboutdare I whisper the words in a family
It's the same logophobia Sen. Phil Gramm tries to activate when he
says "The President and his wife are very good salespeople but the
bottom line is that they are trying to sell socialized medicine. . .
.They cannot sell that to the American people."
The Truth, Mainly
And it's the same logophobia exhibited by an energetic and
intelligent woman I know who's had a bellyful of health insurance
dealings in the last decade. "I don't want socialized medicine," she
says. "But we need something different than we have. We need Medicare
It's logophobia because the fear is of the words themselves rather
than of what they stand for. Ask most of us whether we favor socialized
education, socialized highways, socialized ball parks and we get red in
the face and say nosireebob, we like things the American way.
We might work through that phobia with enough word therapy: Say
"socialized medicine." Now say it again without looking like you've
just swallowed a toad. Now smile when you say it. Now say "socialized
medicine, ALL RIGHT!"
And so forth.
But it might be easier just to change the words that scare us.
We might call it "subsidized medicine." Get sick and the
government gives you a subsidy to pay the bills. Those rugged
individualists who are most rabidly phobic about "socialized"farmers,
say, and right-wing industrialists, defense contractors, Texas
senatorsbecome quite agreeable when they hear "government" and
"subsidy" in the same sentence.
But if the Clintons need even more supportuniversal assent for
universal coveragethey might call it the "medically activated tax
refund plan." Get sick, you get a tax refund to pay for it. If it
costs more than your tax bill, you get a refund of taxes paid by someone
who has the misfortune of staying healthy. Helluva deal.
Could anyone oppose that? Imagine the response to Sen. Gramm
saying "The president and his wife are very good salespeople but the
bottom line is that they are trying to sell a tax refund
cannot sell that to the American people."
Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.