To be truthful, I don’t know as much about this debate over health care reform as I should.

My first question is, do we really need reform? After all, 85 percent of Americans (by some surveys) are satisfied with the way things are right now. Eighty-five percent on a political issue is tantamount to unanimous. Yet, people much more informed than I on such matters — like our Congressman Mike Conaway — agree that these systems need work. But our representative in the U.S. House is also among those who believe the reforms proposed by the administration are the wrong prescription.

It seems that a person’s satisfaction level with health care is directly related to his or her last brush with the system. The exception might be the folks who aren’t so much interested in the legislation that is ultimately produced, as they are with whose party prevails in the debate. The example of a nationally-televised commentator comes to mind. Maybe two years ago, he was describing the nation’s health care system as totally broken after encountering a series of missteps and false starts during his own major medical procedure. Now, however, he is totally defending the merits of that same system.

I know it’s true: Jon Stewart showed the clips.

Personally, I can’t complain. The medical care that members of my family and I have received from physicians and hospitals in the places we live throughout the country has been outstanding. The main problem, it appears, is trying to pay for it all.

Even people who consider themselves to be well insured are surprised when they find out how much they still owe the first time they face a major ailment involving a hospital stay. When it’s your body, you want nothing but the best. But there’s a high price tied to the best of anything, and it’s long been the American way for people to obtain in life only what our wallets can afford to buy. Everything else is — egad! — socialism.

Therefore, I set aside a few hours to do the unthinkable: read the proposed reform bill on the Web. Or maybe just key portions of it. Well, so much for that. I’m not sure I would finish the chore if someone paid me.

So I started reading whatever commentaries I could find and watching televised discussions — fair, calm discussions — like those offered on PBS and a precious few other networks. These were very enlightening and aided my understanding. Still, they haven’t led to a conclusion.

But I do know that my mother, who is in her 80s, pays more in insurance premiums plus co-pay for her prescriptions each month than a person takes home working full-time at minimum wage. And I’m wondering what those 85 percent of Americans who are happy with their current coverage would do if their employers suddenly decided that group health insurance is a benefit they can no longer afford. Honestly, do you realize how much your company is spending — in addition to the premiums you grudgingly have deducted — so you can have insurance?

The best advice I’ve heard came from a television analyst who appeared poised to launch into a lengthy oration, but was abruptly cut short. “We’ve run out of time,” the moderator advised. “You’ve got 30 seconds.”

After a moment’s pause, he suggested this: “If you’re going to go to a town hall meeting, ask yourself three questions: Do I want a single payer, or not? Do I want a government option, or not? And do I want to shout, or think?”

“Partly personal,” the late Paul Harvey used to say, but the following is totally so.

A series of unrelated events this week took me back to my college days at Howard Payne, when a part-time job with this newspaper led to a full-time job after graduation, and then to a career in this field. But I just had to do some research. I found a 1969 calendar, and then I got confirmation that college classes started on a Saturday — not on a weekday — that fall semester.

The weekend opening of school was a late calendar change when college officials realized that the original startup was set for Monday, Sept. 1, 1969. That meant Labor Day would have been the first day of class.

Norman Fisher, then the Bulletin’s editor, had given me a job the previous spring, and I wasn’t about to miss my first day at work, even if it was also the first day of the college semester… exactly 40 years ago this Sunday.

Gene Deason is editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Friday. He may be reached by e-mail at