...And Raspberries for All!

Several years ago I planted a raspberry bush in my backyard. After a couple of years it started producing fruit. They were nice sized berries... between a nickel and a dime in diameter. I got a few berries last year, but this year the bush was loaded. Each cane had probably 50 or more blooms and then little raspberries began to grow. I would see them start to turn from green to a pink color, then I would go out in the morning to pick a few and they were all gone!

The same thing had happened to my blueberry bushes. I have four plants and I did not get one blueberry off it to eat this year, even though it had been loaded with fruit.

What was the culprit and why was I losing all of my freshly grown fruit? The better question is... what were the culprits? It seems that a local squirrel and a cardinal had been helping themselves to the fruits of my labor.

First, let me say that my wife and I are animal friendly. We have two spoiled golden retrievers, we have herons, ducks and Canada geese in our back yard, and we have fed birds for many years (but we quit feeding them a few years back because the squirrels made short work of the feed we would put out.)

My wife had begun to notice that a particular cardinal had taken a liking to my blueberry bush and apparently had stripped it bare before I was able to pick any berries that were even close to being ripe. These blueberry plants only produce once per year, so I missed my opportunity this year to have plump, tasty blueberries. However, my raspberries continue to produce throughout the summer, so after I had seen a number of very nice looking berries disappear, I started looking for a way to remedy the situation.

I had used a net on a cherry tree in the past and found that the birds would fly up under it and snack away, and one bird even got caught up in the net and died as a result. So I was looking for a better way.

We had purchased one of those cool looking 10'x10' porch enclosure/gazebo things that you see at Target, with the attractive looking lawn furniture inside. It had a cloth 'roof' and netting on all four sides, which allowed a breeze, but not bugs, to get in. We had a storm come through last year and it picked the whole thing up and busted it. There was no way to fix it, so I took off all of the fabric and put the metal out front for the recycler.

So, Tuesday I was trying to figure out how to stop the critters. I walked into my garage and spied the netting, balled up on a shelf. I pulled it out and found that there were two 10' panels and there was also a zipper that allowed me to connect the two pieces. I grabbed a hammer and some small nails and I tacked the net onto my outside garage wall (where the plants are growing) and secured the bottom of the net with a few bricks. When I got home from work, my wife informed me that the cardinal and a squirrel were none too happy with my restriction of their access to the dessert bar. The next morning I picked about 15 or 20 nice plump raspberries from my plant. When we got home today after being gone for two days, I picked a bowl-full. See the picture at the top of this post.

OK, so why am I blogging about this when I haven't been blogging much lately and there is SO much to be commenting on right now? Well, its like this... I see an analogy between my fruit-picking animal friends and the coming tsunami of government handouts from Washington DC.

At our mountain cabin we also have a huge cherry tree, several peach trees and a whole bunch of wild raspberry and blackberry bushes. As with my local fruit, the peaches and the cherries start getting picked by squirrels, birds, deer and a stray horse or two just before they are ripe. (My cherry tree is so big, that I actually stand a fighting chance against the critters, but not so with my peaches.) The wild berry bushes don't seem to attract very much attention from the fauna, so I can take advantage of the small fruit if I want to fight the thorns and hike around to all of the bushes to fill a cup.

It occurred to me that if you make something that is attractive available for free, there will be no end to the people (and critters) that will take it, even if they had NOTHING to do with the creation of it. When I blocked the fruit with the net, the bird and the squirrel came over for their daily freebie and after several days, realized that it was futile and then gave up.

I believe that the same thing will happen with health care. Once the government plan is in place and so many people will have access to it for free or next to free, many of those people will decide that they will 'belly up to the bar' to get the free health care that is rightfully theirs. I am sure that we will be bombarded with PSAs on TV, radio, print, billboards and on-line, begging us to take advantage of our newfound benefits. (This happened in the 1960's when Social Security was greatly expanded and all of the new Great Society social programs were being introduced.)

In the initial phases, this will work out pretty well. There will be enough capacity to care for these new consumers of routine health care. In the past, they might have just toughed it out if they had a cold or a sprain, or maybe they would have gone to Walgreens or Wal-Mart and picked up some medicine for the cold or an Icy-Hot for the sprain. Now, they can go to the clinic or the Emergency Room and get looked at... and besides, who gets looked at by a medical professional and doesn't walk out with a prescription or two in hand? Why pay for over the counter meds, when you can get the good stuff for free?

Soon, people that are paying for their own insurance will see what such a good deal the 'Lower 48' (48 million uninsured, that is) are getting that they will just opt for the low or no cost deal. Small businesses will start dropping coverage, because they will get hit with taxes and/or penalties that will probably be lower in cost than what they are paying each month for insurance policies for employees.

Next thing you know, the wait to see a doctor will be longer than the wait at the DMV. Once the health care Genie is out of the bottle, I don't think that he will be going back in any time soon.

Am I wrong in my assumptions? Maybe, but I know human nature and FREE is a pretty compelling reason to take something. Even if you don't really need it. Once this starts happening, does anyone really think that the government will just keep paying for all of this previously unneeded care? I don't think so. And if they decide to stop paying for it, who is going to decide what is superfluous and what is legitimate? Your doctor, or The Committee?

In closing (and this is off the subject of FREE), I really do believe that significant insurance reform is needed. Each one of the 50 states has a different mandate of what is covered by a medical policy. There are a large array of plans... high deductible, low deductible, in-program doctors and out-of-program doctors that cost a lot more, HSAs, catastrophic coverage, and the list goes on. The subject of putting people in arbitrary groups based on employer when rating your annual renewal costs is down right criminal. If one person in a 6 person company has a bad year health-wise, everybody's cost will go up by a significant amount the next year. If you happen to work for a large company, these anomolies can be masked. Restrictions against pre-existing conditions and getting cut off from coverage at any cost because of previous claims also cause great hardship on individuals and combine to make all the insurance companies appear to all to be modern day Ebenezer Scrooges.

As I have previously proposed, I think there should be health insurance and health assurance. Health insurance would be along the lines of protection against loss from catastrophic problems (cancer, diseases, major accidents, loss of limbs, etc.) These are the kinds of things that can wipe out an individual's or family's financial security. There can also be health assurance which is more like what we currently think insurance is. It would provide money for care for routine problems, colds, flu, sprains, broken bones, etc. Most people can afford to pay a doctor for these things if they have to. You don't think so??? Most people will pay for new brakes for their car if it won't pass inspection don't they? Who wants to voluntarily hand over several hundred dollars to the local garage? Not many do, but when push comes to shove, it gets done. Same with doctor fees. Plus, nothing should stop an individual or a company from buying some sort of policy to help with or assume all costs for those things that are not covered by insurance.

Bottom line, basic restructuring of some inequities in the current insurance system is needed and we need to come up with a baseline set of serious problems that will get covered and the rest can be covered by a non-mandated program. You remember human nature don't you? Systems are made to be gamed, and believe me, people will game this one. There is not enough paper available to write enough rules to keep people from cheating. And if you make it tight enough to stop the cheats, then the 95% that are honest will get really crappy care.

Obama-care is a lose-lose situation all around. Let's fight for smart reform, not a 1000+ page law that no one has read!


Craig said…
OK Randy, I know we've spoken about this before but there are a couple of assumptions you've made that are just plain wrong.
First, free health care isn't. It's heavily subsidised but there is still a cash component for all but the poorest. Same for prescriptions. That effectively stops people going to the doctor for something to do when the can't afford a movie.
Second, doctors need to be trained that not everyone needs a prescription at every consultation. You have no idea how much this is adding to the health care bill, especially if you factor in the expensive drugs you guys have.
Finally, the quality of care is legislated by the AMA, not the government. Give them the budget and authority to decide how to maximise care with the funds available.
Works in Australia.
The Asterisk said…
As I previously stated, much needs to be done to our current situation with health care and insurance, et al. I certainly don't have all of the answers and I am sure that there are other countries where the situation works better than what we have, but unfortunately, the chances of us doing a RESET of our system is nil. So, Congress writes a 1,990 page bill, replete with pork and vote-buying exclusions and loopholes, in hopes of 'fixing' a byzantine Gordian-knot-of-a-system. It will never work as advertised.

Our system is SO handicapped by all of the state and federal regulations and requirements that it cannot get better. Plus, the way that liberal politicians suck up to the 50% of our population that pays no income tax guarantees that a large proportion of our population will have little, if any, skin in the game when it comes to actually paying for health care.

I think that the best thing that could happen is for Congress to create a set of guidelines... a sort of Ten Commandments plus a Bill of Rights for patients, consumers and providers alike and then repeal all of those crippling laws that have been enacted over the past 75 years.

Actually, at this point, it has been discussed so much that I am mentally tired of thinking and talking about it. All I know is that I would rather have the system we now have than one where a group of politicians (especially those that I do not agree with) create almost 2,000 pages of law that 'saves money' and 'makes health care more efficent'. Say it isn't so.

Anyone that thinks that it will get better with MORE regulation needs to be committed.

Hmmmm. I wonder if that kind of psychiatric care will be covered under the new proposal???

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