SOUDER: When the cure is worse than the crisis

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By Chuck Souder

If you watch the national news or listen to talk radio, you know that the hot issue for the last several weeks has been “health care reform.” Or is it “health insurance reform?” If you don’t know for sure, it’s only because the terms keep changing. 

The more I listen to the debate, the more I feel like the patient who received a call from his doctor. The doctor said, “Your test results came back, and I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first?”

“Give me the good news first,” the man replied.

“The good news is that the test results showed that you have 24 hours to live,” the doctor said.

Understandably alarmed, the man blurted out, “Doctor, if that is the good news, what is the bad news?”

“The bad news,” explained the doctor “is that I’ve been trying to call you since yesterday.”

The more I hear about the legislation under consideration, the more it seems like the good news is bad, and the bad news is worse.

Now, because I am like the majority of our elected officials and haven’t read all 2,600 (or 2,400 or 2,700—no one seems to know) pages of the bill currently in question, I can’t tell you everything that the current legislation will or will not do.

Still, I do have a couple of observations that give me pause, in addition to the obvious (for Christians) issues, such as Federal funding of abortions found within the bill.

One of the stated rationales for the Health Care Bill is to provide insurance to the 30 million or so Americans that are currently without it, which, in and of itself, I suppose is a laudable idea.

We are also told that adding 30 million more people to the waiting lists at local doctors’ offices will not affect the quality or timeliness of our care and that providing insurance for these additional millions will actually save money. 

However, common sense (which seems to be in short supply in our nation’s capitol) tells me a few things. One is that covering more people costs more, not less. Another is that adding millions of new patients without also adding new providers will unavoidably lead to much longer wait times, or even the dreaded word “rationing.”

This doesn’t even take into consideration the recent poll conducted by the Medicus Firm, which found that if this proposed legislation becomes law that 46 percent (!) of current doctors seriously would consider stepping out of the profession.

If that statistic is anywhere close to being right, there actually will be a “health care crisis” in our country unlike any we have ever seen.

A third thing that common sense is screaming at the top of her lungs is that adding several layers of bureaucracy to an already overburdened system will not increase efficiency or reduce costs but will have exactly the opposite effect. 

And for those who are banking on the Congressional Budget Office’s numbers that say that in the first 10 years this legislation is budget neutral, common sense says, “Buyer beware.”

CBO’s misleading numbers are arrived at by counting 10 years of income but only 6 years of expenses. If you and I could do that with our budgets, we’d find that we can finally afford a new car and that vacation home we’ve always wanted!

Unfortunately, just manipulating the numbers doesn’t mean we can actually afford either. 

Even more than that, common sense might suggest that we look at recent history of such budget projections.

At its start in 1966, Medicare cost $3 billion per year, and Congress estimated that the program would cost $12 billion by 1990.

However, in 1990, actual Medicare costs were over $107 billion. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s nine times what was predicted. 

And far from being the exception, such under-estimation is an unchanging rule in Washington. 

I realize that all of the above might be a little depressing. So, because we’re on the subject of health-care, and because we live in a state sometimes characterized by the “elites” of society as “redneck” or “hillbilly,” I thought it might be useful to close by passing along these light-hearted “hillbilly” definitions of some of the more common health-care related terms.

Feel free to use them on your next visit to the doctor—that is if he or she hasn’t taken an early retirement.

Benign ­– the age you will be after you be eight.

Barium – what you do with dead folks.

Cesarean Section – a nice neighborhood in Rome.

Cauterize – made eye contact with her.

Dilate – to live longer than your children do.

Enema – not a friend.

Fester – to be quicker than someone else.

Fibula – a small lie.

G.I.Series – thee World Series of military baseball. 

Hangnail – the place you put your coat when you’re not wearing it.

Impotent – distinguished or well known. 

Labor Pain – getting hurt at work.

Morbid – higher than the previous offer.

Nitrates – cheaper than day rates.

Node – something you already knew, as in “I node UK was gonna win”.

Outpatient – a person who has fainted.

Pap Smear – a paternity test.

Recovery Room – a place to do upholstery repair.

Seizure – a famous Roman emperor who lived in the Caesarean Section. 

Terminal Illness – when you get sick at the train station.

Tumor – between one and three additional items.

Urine – the opposite of mine.

Hopefully these definitions made you smile, because when it comes to the current health-care debate, perhaps laughter is the best medicine. 


Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church and can be reached at csouder@shelbychristian.org