Elliot: Oil comes to health care


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I like oil.

Olive oil, canola oil (which, according to an NPR show I heard a few years ago, is better for your health than olive oil) — yeah, I like oil. I’m not one of those liberals who wanders around this Earth bashing oil all the time.

(OK, sometimes.)

Then there’s the other kind of oil.

Valvoline, a motor-oil company, has a new chest-pounding ad out — not to criticize oil companies. They have brought us all sorts of modern wonders, including ease of transportation around town, Thanksgiving trips home, spring-break trips to exotic Florida and even more exotic south Texas, not to mention air pollution, global climate change, and dead armadillos in the center of the road.

(OK, I might have exaggerated a shade in that last one. I might have been drinking a bit too much Jim Hightower.)

Anyway, Valvoline, a motor-oil company (did I mention that?) likes to brag on its (yes, Virginia, that’s the correct pronoun; I understand that many undergrads have issues distinguishing pronouns from adverbs and dead armadillos in the center of the road) — anyway (there’s that word again) the Valvoline ads brag about having invented motor oil in 1866, 20 or so yours before autos were operable. As in invented. (Think about it for a second — some scientist in Binghamton, N.Y., invented an automobile motor oil before human beings got off their butts and invented automobiles. You gotta love human beings.)

Anyway, those chest-thumping ads go on to boast that the good people at Valvoline improve their oil from month to month, year to year, decade to decade to decade to whenever is now.

All well and good, I suppose. But does this mean that Valvoline didn’t get it right the first time? Or the second? Or the third? Or the fourth? Or the ? … Lots of decades since 1866.

Kind of reminds me of Obamacare. Which, as we all know, rolled out its health-exchange website, and it promptly rolled up into a rather impressively large computer snafu. So will Obamacare follow Valvoline’s example and improve the plan month to month, year to year, decade to decade to decade?

Actually, polls show that many more Americans want the health-care plan fixed than those who want it ditched.

And, in any case, all of us who own computers know a thing or two (or three or four) about computer snafus. I promise not to tell you about mine. Because, in our times, nothing is more boring than listening to other people’s computer problems, when your own computer problems are far more interesting.

But how could they, with 3½ years to do it, not have fixed any problems before they rolled out the health exchange on Oct. 1?

Well, for one, they didn’t have 3½ years. As NPR has reported, officials had to wait to see if the Supreme Court would overturn the law. We all know that it did the opposite, but by then, it was the summer of 2012. Then, NPR reports, officials waited to see if Mitt Romney would be elected. Well, we know how that turned out.

But first, before the waiting game, it turned out the Health and Human Services Department needed more money for the health exchange than had been originally allocated. But congressional Republicans said no.

And so we have a real mess. To steal a line from No Country for Old Men, if it’s not the real mess, it’ll do until the real mess comes along.

Maybe Valvoline had the right idea.

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