MARTY RUSSELL: Having insurance doesn’t ensure anything

By Marty Russell

I feel so much safer now knowing that Lindsay Lohan is securely locked away behind bars in a Beverly Hills jail where she’ll spend the next three months on a spartan diet of focaccia and sparkling water. Now that we’ve successfully imprisoned the biggest threat to the American way of life, maybe we can move on to others like say Mel Gibson or bin Laden or perhaps the person who invented insurance.
Author Douglas Adams, in his wonderfully weird classic “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” describes a race of aliens known as the Vogons thusly: “They are one of the most unpleasant races in the Galaxy – not actually evil, but bad–tempered, bureaucratic, officious and callous. They wouldn’t even lift a finger to save their own grandmothers from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal without orders signed in triplicate, sent in, sent back, queried, lost, found, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally buried in soft peat for three months and recycled as firelighters.”
He might as well have been describing the state’s employee insurance program except that it is evil. And, come to think of it, maybe burying Lindsay Lohan in soft peat for three months might have been a better punishment, and at least we wouldn’t be subjected to a new photo of her every day in her prison uniform.
I went in for my annual medical checkup last week because I had just had another birthday, my meds were running out and because I just like spending an afternoon watching drug reps work while I sit in an overly air–conditioned waiting room reading a cover story in a magazine about a new invention called television. It had been almost exactly a year since my last checkup for which I was still getting bills on a regular basis that all said “insurance pending.” It obviously wasn’t “impending” any time soon. So I mentioned it to my doctor.
“Did you fill out the survey?” she asked. Yes, my doctor is a woman.
“I remember having to fill out some kind of survey a few years ago when we were told to but nobody has said anything about it since that I can recall,” I told her.
“You have to fill it out every year or they won’t pay,” she informed me.
It took a minute to sink in. I’ve been paying premiums for the past year for no good reason because I obviously hadn’t said the magic word. I might as well have been burying that money in soft peat. At least I’d still have it. Apparently, buried somewhere deep in the fine print, we’re required to fill out a survey each year in order to be eligible for coverage. If memory serves it was a short survey, probably only about five questions, mostly about how great we think our insurance coverage is and whether we think we’ll die in the coming year and cause the insurance company to have to actually do some paperwork. In other words, they buried it in soft peat where no one could find it to give them an excuse not to pay up.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e–mail at