It's not over


AND speaking of Bill Clinton's health plan -- we have a saying in Washington, "The opera isn't over until the fat lady sings." By coincidence, it is the fat lady that President Clinton's program is aimed at.

One of Bill's spear carriers told me, "The president wants everyone, including the fat lady, to have decent health care at a price he or she can afford."

He held up a plastic health card that would guarantee equal treatment. "Let's say that the fat lady gets sick and can't appear in the second act. This card would permit her to go to any hospital in the area and receive treatment regardless of the kind of medical plan her opera company carries. There would be no limit on the amount of Maalox she might need nor would she be charged for drinking a soda in the emergency room."

I asked, "Will the fat lady be required to fill out a 20-page health form?"

"No, under the president's plan she would only have to give her name and address and write 'Sick' in the middle of the one-page form. The president wants to cut out all the paperwork which, incidentally, was not created by the doctors but by the lawyers. The fat lady could see any doctor she chooses and he would treat her at a very competitive price."

"Suppose her doctor tells her that she's overweight? Can she seek a second opinion from Weight Watchers?"

"Of course she can. She can even get a third one from Jenny Craig if she wants to. Another benefit is that if the fat lady is transferred to another opera company in the middle of her aria, she will still have health cover age."

"Can the fat lady charge her prescriptions under the Clinton plan?"

"Yes. But the president insists that profiteering on drugs be reduced so he's asking all fat people to take generic drugs wherever possible."

"I have a cousin who is not obese, but he is short. Will short people have the same benefits as fat singers?"

"The president says that he wants everyone to be protected. The only question is who would be treated first, the short person or the fat one?"

I asked the spear carrier, "What if a dentist wanted to take out my wisdom tooth at a price over and above the one indicated in the Blue Book -- could I call Hillary Clinton for a waiver?"

"No," he replied. "But you can call Attorney General Janet Reno."

"I keep hearing the phrase 'top-of-the-line coverage.' What exactly does that mean?"

"You will be picked up by limousine and taken to your own private waiting room with a free bar. You would also be given hot towels before a light meal prepared by the HMO of your choice. If the doctor keeps you waiting for more than 10 minutes, he must turn over his Redskins tickets to you for the game of your choice."

The spear carrier explained to me that the main thrust of the president's plan was preventive medicine.

"If we can keep the fat lady healthy, she will continue singing and be gainfully employed. We don't want to pay medical costs for an opera singer after her legs give out."

"Who is going to pay for all this?" I wanted to know.

He looked around to see if anyone was listening and whispered, "Luciano Pavarotti."

Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.

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