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Elliot: To your health

BY BEAU ELLIOT | APRIL 15, 2014 5:00 AM

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We all know that President Barack Obama’s health-care plan is this huge disaster that rivals the BP oil spill in its breadth, scope, and, well, oiliness.

Probably Obamacare is the greatest bumfoolery in human history since human beings first walked out of Africa all those many thousands of years before many conservatives believe the Earth was created.

(Hello, dinosaurs.)

Well, except not quite so. Yeah, the opening bombed. If Obamacare had been a Broadway show, it would have closed in a week (kind of like the Broadway show that then-Red Sox owner Harry Frazee financed with the money he made selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees).

But life isn’t a Broadway show (and even the Red Sox finally bounced back, after a decade or eight), and Obamacare turned out to work. Well, turned out to work in the way U.S. government programs tend to work — that is, stiffly, groaningly, and grudgingly.

(Why this is so is one of the great mysteries of human life. European countries manage to have great health-care plans that work. But for some reason, Americans seem to be suspicious of health-care plans that work and thus opt for Rube Goldberg machines that grunt and grind and are easy to make fun of. Americans are the most curious examples of human beings since human beings first walked out of etc., etc.)

But Obamacare did work. More than 7.5 million Americans have signed up for it, even with all the hurdles. And the plan worked especially well in Kentucky, home of Sen. Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, two of the plan’s biggest and most outspoken opponents (oh, the sweetness of ancient Greek irony).

But. That having been said, Obamacare is a creaky, groaning machine. How much better it would have been to have Germany’s plan, for instance. (I used to live in Germany; nothing creaking or groaning about that health-care plan.)

Some of my favorite things about the health-care signup:

In the security section, among the options were “What is your favorite radio station?” — which briefly flummoxed me; I like WSUI, of course (listen locally, but I confess, I listen to WBUR out of Boston over the Internet), but I also like KGYM of Cedar Rapids because my old pal Todd Brommelkamp works there, and he is one of the best baseball analysts I’ve heard. Though, apparently, he’s no better at picking teams in the NCAA Tournament than I am. (I will note that from 1998 to 2002, I won my tournament pool every even-numbered year. And no, since you ask, there were more than two people involved.)

My favorite option, though, was “Type a significant date in your life?” I mean, that’s not a question; that’s the imperative. It doesn’t take a question mark, it takes a period.

A close second was “What is the nick name of your grandmother?” According to 31 dictionaries (including American Heritage and Merriam-Webster), “nickname” is one word. Though perhaps the government workers meant the familiar name of your nicked-up grandmother. Sheesh.

You just have to wonder when your typical government workers are no better at word usage and punctuation than your typical university undergraduates. Not to disparage your typical university undergraduates. Or your typical government workers.

(It’s hard to imagine who would be more insulted.)

So, we have this Rube Goldberg machine of a health-care plan. It works, after a fashion. One of these days, perhaps even in your typical undergraduate’s lifetime, say 2060 or so, we’ll have a health-care plan that works as well as Germany’s in 1992.

Don’t hold your breath.


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