Rebirth of Reason


Insurance by Remote Control
by Eric Rockwell

Last night I was examining some potential insurance plans, as I am self-employed and currently without coverage. I was unable to come to a conclusion as to whether I should commit to an outrageous monthly expense or just not bother with insurance at all. I began considering whether or not I should simply give up my own business in favor of working for a company that would take care of my insurance for me. Perplexed, I did what I usually do in such situations. I turned on the TV.

As Lucy Ricardo lit her nose on fire, I reflected for a moment on just how she might be insured. Not even able to hold down a job wrapping chocolates in a candy factory, I can hardly expect her to purchase her own health insurance. Well, since Ricky has a job, I figured that maybe he ought to pay for it. But then I wondered if I can really trust Ricky to provide it. Prone to emotional Cuban outbursts, he could easily drop Lucy from his policy in a fit of rage. Acting in their best interest, I decided to pass some imaginary legislation that would make everything run smoothly. Knowing I could run their lives better than they could, I thought, yes, I'll call the shots here! And I'd rather put the responsibility for insurance coverage on the Tropicana nightclub, where Ricky works. If they can afford an orchestra, showgirls, and bongos, they can certainly take care of Ricky's insurance as well.

Enjoying my sense of governmental power, I then decreed that all my TV friends would receive insurance coverage from their employers. And the employers, who I never see onscreen, will also be responsible for providing insurance that covers both the employee and his spouse. That leaves Lucy free to engage in all sorts of hare-brained schemes, while I can rest assured that she is covered in the event of serious burns to her nose.

When it comes to noses, all Samantha Stevens has to do twitch hers to get out of any scrape. Her powers are limited, though, and knowing that she often has to call on Dr. Bombay, I decided even witches need coverage. And by my previous declaration, that responsibility would be taken care of, at least in part, by Darren's employer.

A couple of hours later, another nose got bent out of shape and was in need of medical care. In an episode called "The Subject Was Noses," Marsha Brady was hit by an errant football, rendering her face imperfect right before a big date. Horrors! Is Marsha covered for such accidents? No problem! I immediately passed legislation that required employers to provide adequate insurance benefits to employees, their spouses, and their dependents. This benefit package, paid for by Mike Brady's architectural firm, might be a little more expensive, as it provides coverage for nothing less than a whole bunch. The firm might not like the extra expense, but I want assurance that all my TV friends have coverage, and my decree serves that end. So, all is well in TV now. Except....

Jeannie. There she is, being sucked into her ornate bottle. What if, while lounging in her groovy domicile, her master accidentally knocks it over, breaking it to smithereens and leaving Jeannie crippled for life? She has no coverage, because she isn't married to her master. But she's as deserving of insurance benefits as Lucy Ricardo or Samantha Stevens. Her relationship with the handsome astronaut ought to count for something, even though there isn't a marriage certificate to prove their commitment. Perhaps this can be remedied by my governmental intervention. If I increase my demands on employers to include not just spouses and children, but domestic partners as well, then more people will be able to reap the benefit formerly restricted to the likes of Ozzie and Harriet. Holding my remote control with a feeling of great authority, I determined that henceforward unmarried couples will be awarded insurance equal to that of married couples. They shall be referred to as "domestic partnerships", and employers (in this case, NASA) shall be as responsible for them as they are for employees who have a traditional marriage. So, now all is well in TV. Except....

Felix and Oscar. Oscar Madison is a sportswriter for a newspaper, which in accordance with my decree, pays for Oscar's health insurance. Felix, on the other hand, is a self-employed photographer, who writes a check monthly to cover his own health insurance. If Oscar's newspaper extended the health insurance benefits to include domestic partners, should Felix be able to take advantage of Oscar's benefit package? After all, though they don't have a sexual relationship, they do share domestic concerns. Hmmm...nah, I don't think I'll grant them this. I'm the one with the remote control in my hand, I'm the government here, and since I've always had a soft-spot for romance, I want to reserve the designation of "domestic partnership" to those couples who are, well, couples.

But I do want Felix to get coverage, and photographers don't make that much. I guess I'll have to solve this one later. Still, for the most part, all is well, I guess. Except...

Buddy and Sally. Under the principle of Equal Pay for Equal Work, which is another decree I imposed on the TV folk, Buddy and Sally ought to be paid the same amount. But because Buddy goes home to a wife, (known only as "Pickles") I'm actually requiring the Alan Brady Show to pay Buddy more than they pay Sally. Since Buddy's marital status requires a more expensive benefits package, Sally is being discriminated against, receiving unequal pay for equal work. Here now I'm faced with a contradiction in the principles I've imposed by remote control onto my TV friends. So, all is not well, I guess.

My well-meaning governmental mandates have required employers to reward equal work with unequal pay. And by widening benefits to include domestic partnerships, I've shown a prejudice against relationships that don't fit that mold. And I've put demands on employers that shouldn't really be theirs to begin with. It seems my attempts to act in their best interest have led to a jumble of contradictions. And I haven't even begun to figure out how to run the lives of those seven stranded castaways. I think the problem was with my premise. Perhaps my authoritarian dictates via remote control are not really in anyone's best interest. And governments that intervene in economic issues are likewise legislating by remote control.

Every situation comedy starts with a premise, and if it's a good one, it may prove to be a successful episode. But if the premise is flawed, then no matter how many jokes are inserted and no matter how much the laugh track is expanded, it will falter. In the instance of a governmental authority dictating employment-based insurance benefits, the basic premise is flawed. So no matter how many clauses are inserted and no matter how much the benefits are expanded, it will falter.

After hours of mild but mindless amusement, I'd had enough television for one night. I watch way too much of it. And so, with a flick of a switch, I turned off the TV and resigned from my position as a legislator. Relinquishing this power, the world within the TV would be free to solve its own problems. And I'd now be able to begin focusing on my own life. So I came away from my marathon night of sit-coms with a lesson learned: The world might be a better place without remote control. Perhaps that's a premise that won't falter.

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