1/8/08

HealthCar & The Open Road

We bought a new 4-passenger car last month.

It's not exactly top-of-the line. In fact, it's pretty basic. Mileage is negligible, not great. But it's safer than walking the local interstates, praying we don't get run over.

As well we should because for the first time in our life, we are making car payments to the tune of $500 and some a month, although had we opted for the fully-loaded version, we could easily be spending $900 or more per month.

I'm not sure if you've heard of this vehicle - it's called the HealthCar and so far, we've been making payments on it but have yet to even take it out for a test drive.

It doesn't go many places. It takes us to and from a tune-up and vehicle inspection specialist six times a year and also allows for major overhaul trips and emergency road services. And even though most of the year it wears a nice front-end black bra, I can remove the bra once a year and take it to the drive-thru naked for an undercover inspection. If ya know what I'm saying.

Making this vehicle purchase feels pretty awful though, I have to say. It took us 2.5 years to get to this point, but we were getting worried that if we encountered a health emergency with our children, there wouldn't be any public transportation available for them to ride to the hospital on.

It's also been difficult for us because we used to drive a perfectly good car back home. The government supplies every Canadian with a decent model healthcar, free of charge. There are rare exceptions such as if you are self-employed and thus, aren't eligible for an employee car. Then you do have to pay a nominal monthly surcharge for direct government supplied vehicles. And of course, Canadians pay extra and dearly at the end of the year in taxes, but one expects car allowances and taxable benefits when one has a health car with unlimited mileage, free gas and car wash.

Granted, our old car was not top-of-the-line either. Sometimes, if you wanted to go see the auto detailer for a shine, or a paintjob, or if you wanted to get a parts overhaul, you'd have to book an appointment and wait months, sometimes years, depending on the job. But in so many ways, the system seemed healthier and more trustworthy. And the car was so much easier to drive. For one thing, it was an automatic, so I never had to worry about trying to park on a hill or shift gears in rush hour traffic. The provincial governments adminstered the insurance, in concert with federal government monies, so insurance was very streamlined.

And it offered unlimited mileage. You could take for a car wash or tune-up daily or even more, if you liked without worrying about things like a co-pay fee.

Our new Healthcar is a standard transmisison, so we'll be constantly having to shift ideological gears to get anywhere. I'm not sure I like the stickshift thing ~ sometimes I feel like it's constantly stuck in reverse or neutral and decidedly not progressive ~ but I have no choice. Only a privileged or underprivileged few in this country get to drive automatic healthcars - seniors, veterans, military families and low-income earners. The rest of us are stuck driving these so-called fuel-efficient cars.

It wouldn't be so bad but everytime you turn around, there's a parking fee or a toll bridge fee. There are fees for everything - they call it fee-for-service but when you're used to driving a free-for-service healthcar, it's a huge adjustment, having to make sure you have spare change handy everytime you go visit someone to get your car fixed or looked at.

Here's the one tiny thing that I like though. I like that you can just call up and get an appointment to see whoever you want. Immediately. But I just question: at what price? I get scared when I see huge advertising dollars being spent by Healthcar shops, each vying for drivers to come bring their vehicles to them for services. And I get depressed when I read that this entire healthcar motor vehicles program is so dysfunctional and in-bred. It's virtually run by insurance providers and statistics indicate that more than a third of the astronomical costs of the program are wasted on bureaucratic inefficiencies - way more than other developed nations' healthcar transportation programs.

But what choice do we have? Not much, I'm afraid. So we have this car that sits parked and idle. I guess that means we're keeping up with the Joneszes because we're no longer a deprived minority ~ some 16% of the population is left stranded on the side of the open road in this country at any or at least some point in time each year. If and when these poor souls do get access to a Healthcar, studies show they end up taking it out for longer and more expensive road trips and causing traffic jams; having been deprived of basic Point A to Point B trips for how ever long, such as they have.

I know there is this whole, huge underbelly of society that are near and dear to the Healthcar industry - the salesmen, the management organizations, the insurance providers, the various tune-up places, the fuel companies, and all the countless car specialists - and I also know that most Americans don't realize there is a viable alternative or more to the point, that they are entitled and deserve a better system - but if they could see their world like us outsiders do, here's the theme song we, the outsiders, would attach to it. If you're easily offended or belong to one of the aforementioned segements of the population, maybe don't click the link. It has lots of swear words in it. Yet the profanity fits, and this system is nothing, if not extremely profane to my health and wellness sensibilities.

You see, I've always been an advocate for a Healthcar incentive program, whereby the less you use and abuse the system, the more you're rewarded. And where car specialists are rewarded for how quickly and efficiently they can treat and manage your car problems. And where the pharmafuel companies, who own Washington, no longer get to host their little puppet shows, control government policies, and quite generally, foster and prosper from a system that is so grossly unhealthy.

But on the off chance you clicked the link, and heard even just a few seconds, then you'll at least better appreciate why I've nicknamed our new vehicle the PIS Schmidt car or PISS car for short.

And then if naming the thing wasn't apropos enough, I even saw the neighbor's dog come over and lift a leg to the backtire the other day. What other proof does one need?

Suffice to say, I'll be riding my donkey on a daily basis and taking the car out only when necessary. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

4 comments:

Jeri said...

I'm a secret fan of universal healthcare myself, as long as it's done reasonably well. The thought of long waits for necessary service, or rationing of high-end care, is a little scary, but it's tons better than what we have now.

Cute analogy. :)

Jungle Mama said...

Hilarious! Very nicely done, Holy. I'm not even going to touch this one . . .

Jorge said...

You said it so much better than I ever could :-) Stay well, and hopefully you'll never have to take your car for a spin.
J.

Jorge said...

I just posted a different perspective on health care, but rereading yours made me smile. Be well,
J.