Monday, November 28, 2005

Cruel and Unusual Choices

In the original version of this blog I wrote an entry in which I said:
There is an errand that I have been avoiding for several weeks, one that I dread: getting a bottle of shampoo at the drugstore.

The last time I did that I ended up in an incapacitating rage and, though I finally picked one bottle, my blood pressure probably remained high for several days.

That is not the way a follower of the Buddha Dharma is supposed to react. It is, however, the way that I reacted.

The problem was that there were far too many choices: thickening shampoos, conditioning shampoos, thinning shampoos, coloring shampoos,herbal shampoos, and Lord knows what else. Yet, as it happened, there was no bottle that I recognized as being a shampoo that I had used before. And so I had to make a choice among myriads of brands and versions of soap in a bottle adulterated with various types of gunk.

I did not dare just pick a bottle and have done with it, because with my luck it would turn---as it promised on the label---my remaining hair an interesting shade of green.

And so I had to read the fine print and think and dither and, inevitably, grow angrier and angrier.

As I think of that experience I grow angry all over again and find that in my most unawakened mood I want to kneecap anyone who claims that increasing the number of my--or the world's--choices makes me--or the world--better off.
You can imagine how infuriated I now am at the necessity of choosing between forty some different insurance company plans for the new Medicare drug benefit.

It hardly abates my rage that I know that if I do choose a plan the insurance company that I select can change the prices of the drugs it covers or even the type of drugs that it does cover whenever it likes. So the choice that I am confronted with is: which bait and switch con game should I choose to victimize me?

But if I am enraged, think of how others who, unlike myself, are not trained as lawyers and are not intimately familiar with the Internet, must feel about the program.

It is perhaps the cruelest piece of legislation to be passed in the last decade, although it would have to compete with the recently effective bankruptcy reform legislation.

It hardly helps that the Federal government is now running advertisements suggesting that us old folks should get our children to make the choices.for us, especially since many of us like myself don't have any children and many children---especially those whose parents are receiving Medicaid---don't have the skills necessary to make the choices for their parents.

People like myself who don't absolutely need the new drug benefits will often be able to choose---or pick, as I plan to do---some sort of drug benefit plan. On the other hand, those who really need the benefits are much less likely to be able to take advantage of the program.

I am reluctant to make political predictions, but the new Medicare drug benefit program is such a cruel and complex mess that I am pretty sure that it, rather than the Iraq war, will be the critical issue in the 2006 elections. I don't think that I will be alone in planning to vote against anyone who voted for that legislation.

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