Week of 8.2.2009
Ron Cruger
Senator Carlton B. Wilderment explains the health bill
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            The six-term Senator from the deep South had his staff organize a “town hall” type meeting in his state’s capital city. The television cameras loved this real son of the South - Senator Carlton B. Wilderment. Just the right touch of silvery grey hair framing his deeply tanned face. Just the right amount of Southern accent. Hardly a paragraph flew out of his mouth without a “y’all” stuck in there.
          And here he was, about to take the stage in an attempt to explain the proposed new national health care package created by the Senate. Three hundred and fifty of the Senator’s constituency packed the Longwood Agricultural Junior College gymnasium to participate and listen to an explanation of the gargantuan overhaul of the nation’s health care system. The proposed law is captured in over one thousand pages of rules, guidelines and minutia.
          This night, promptly at seven thirty the Senator took to the small stage, which the night before was used to hand out the school’s jayvee basketball team’s letters by the school’s dean of students, Byron L. Grittscomb.
          Stretching to his full six foot, four inch frame, the Senator rose to polite applause and began the evening. “Thank you ladies and gentlemen, for taking your important (he makes it sound like ‘impotent’) time to be here. I hope that when this evening is over (sounds like ‘ovah’) you will understand (sounds like’undahstayend’) our party’s (sounds like ‘potty’) proposed health care package for every (sounds like ‘ever’) American man, woman and child.”
          A smattering of applause for the opening remarks. The Senator continued. “My fellow Senators and your Representatives are hard at work creating a health care plan that will give all Americans the quality medical care they deserve. I will now open up this meeting to your questions.”
          A sixty-ish short, stout woman in the third row of bleacher seats immediately rose, waved her right hand over her head. The Senator noticed her and said, “Yes, ma’am, go ahead.”
          “Well, Mr. Senator, I’ve heard that this new health plan will cost Americans over a trillion dollars, is that true and if it is will our taxes be raised? Thank you.”
          “Well, now. We all know that medical care costs a lot. We’ve done our best to keep your medical costs low. We want all Americans to have good medical care and I, for one, will do everything possible to give you just that.”
          The stout woman waved her hand again, ready to ask for a clearer answer. The Senator ignored her and pointed a finger at a lanky man in bib overalls in his fifties sitting two rows behind the woman. “Yes sir, your question.”
          “Sir, me and my misses don’t have any medical insurance now. We can’t afford it. How much will it cost us with your plan and will all my five children be covered too?”
          “God bless you, sir. I understand your feelings. Your five children and you and your wife deserve the same good medical attention that rich Americans get. That’s what America is all about.”
          The Senator’s index finger pointed to a silver haired man sitting at the end of an aisle, closest to the north basket in the gym. The man, wearing a worn grey suit and Nike sneakers stood, still holding his wife’s hand. The Senator nodded towards the couple and said, “Yes, what is your question?”
          “Senator, my wife has cancer. The doctor told us that she needs an operation and some real expensive treatments after that. Doctor said it will cost over $125,000. Will we be able to get insurance even with my wife’s cancer?”
          “Well, now, that’s a good question. I believe that all Americans deserve the very best that our country can offer in medical care. It’s not fair that only the rich in America can have good medical care. This is the greatest country in the world and, by God, we’re going to make it even better if I have anything to say about it. God bless you and your wife.”
          A twenty something blond in tight jeans and a tighter crop top barked, “Senator Wilderment, Senator Wilderment, please.”
          The Senator took a few steps closer to the blond woman sitting halfway up the hard seats in the gymnasium. “Yes, ma’am. Go ahead.”
          “Well, Senator, I’m twenty three years old, I don’t have a husband and I’m pregnant again, I already have four kids, well, anyway, will I be covered under this new plan and will it cover my pregnancy and will it also cover my four kids and how much will it cost me?”
          “Ma’am, you have, indeed, been busy. We’re working night and day to come up with a comprehensive medical plan that all Americans will find works for them. There are far too many Americans who haven’t had the proper medical care for too long. God bless you and your children.”
          The blond woman sat down and watched the Senator walk away. She felt an emptiness in her gut.
          The Senator announced, “Another question, please.”
          The Senator pointed to a short, slight Latino man, wearing a straw hat, sitting in the top row of the gymnasium bleachers. The man stood and loudly asked, “Your honor, I own a screen door repair shop in town. My brother in law works for me and my wife, who is our bookkeeper. My good friend, James also works for us. We barely make enough to feed our families. Do you think I’ll have to buy medical insurance for everyone with this new law?”
          “Well, senor, America was built by people like you. Good, hard working people with families. People like you are the backbone of this country. You deserve top flight medical care, just like the rich people get. God bless you, sir.”
          The Senator smiled at his audience and said, “Well, folks, we have time for one more question.”
          A fragile appearing elderly lady in a print dress, wearing a flowery summer hat and carrying a small paisley handbag quietly stood three rows back from the basketball floor. Her eyes met the Senator’s so he had no choice but to select her to offer the evening’s final question. He walked to her and politely said, “Ma’am, please go ahead, ask your question, I can hear you fine.”
          She placed her purse in the crook of her arm, reached up and adjusted her hat. The gymnasium was eerily quiet. Senator Wilderment had on his widest political smile. He awaited a question and he was relieved that his last poser was a grey haired, sweet, little old lady. His thoughts ranged to the double martini waiting for him in his hotel room.
          The little old lady coughed into a dainty handkerchief, put it away in her right sleeve. She cleared her throat.
          “Sir, with all due respect I have to say something. I don’t know if anyone else in this building is confused, but I am. Maybe it’s because I’m old, I’ll be eighty six in two months, but I haven’t got an idea in hell about what you’ve been saying. As far as I’m concerned you’ve double-talked through this whole night. Damn it, sir, bless you for being here, but you haven’t said nothin’. I’m payin’ eight hundred dollars a month for health insurance, plus all that extra money every time I go to the doctor. I also have to pay four hundred and fifty dollars a month for my prescriptions. I voted for you and I trusted you to come up with an insurance plan that would help me and a lot of other people in our town. And all I’ve heard is some silly “tap dancing” around all the questions that were asked tonight. If this is the best you can do, mister Senator, you can bet that I won’t vote for you next time. All I can say is that you should get on a train and head back to Washington and get your Senate pals to get serious and come up with a real plan that us regular folks can use.”
          Three hundred and forty nine townspeople sat stunned for a few seconds and then, as one, burst into applause. The clapped, yelled and smiled at the innocent looking little old lady, who held tightly onto her purse, straightened her dress and walked towards the exit of the gymnasium. Three hundred and forty nine townspeople continued applauding as she left the building.
          The Senator walked quickly to his rented stretch limo waiting outside the gymnasium. He turned to his aide and said, “Maybe we better read that bill more carefully.”
C'mon guys, be real!