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Columns

April 7, 2009

Travels with Uncle Chet: Reforming health care is a messy endeavor

COLUMBUS _ ``You're going to have to take drastic measures with that,'' Uncle Chet squinted up at the kitchen ceiling.

``And that's the third coat,'' I said from the table, drinking coffee, looking up at a hideous spackling job.

``You're trying the impossible with a knife,'' he said. ``You're going to need a board.''

``What?''

``Get a one-by-four, about three feet long,'' he said. ``Slap up some goop, then screed it with that board _ like concrete, only upside down. That's the only way you're going to hide that bump.''

``That's going to make a mess,'' I said.

``True,'' he said. ``I'll get my camera.''

``Geesh,'' I grumbled and moved the eight-foot ladder to the far wall.

``Some of the best jobs are the messiest,'' said Uncle Chet, who stayed at the table with his coffee, ``but they're the ones that need doing the most.''

I found a scrap board in the barn, got out the tub of spackle. Then I filled the pan with mud, took it and the wide knife up the ladder.

``Now, you take health care,'' he said. ``There's nothing that needs fixing more than health care, but it's going to be very messy.''

``Bombs away,'' I said and leaned back on the ladder.

``Half the paper-pushers at the health insurers are going to lose their jobs because they really don't do anything for health care except drive up the cost,'' he said. ``They take 30 cents out of every dollar without treating a single patient.''

``Yuck.''

``Of course, the rank and file will have to be retrained. That'll cost a few billion, but that's a bargain if you're cutting health care costs for an entire nation. And Obama and Congress can do it with a single rule change: Allow everyone to opt into Medicare, the American public health care system, among the most efficient and well-liked in the world.''

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