There are times for reflection.

Panoramic views of the ocean from a 10th floor beach side motel, sitting on a bench in Coggin Park at sunrise feeding the birds or walking across a pasture with wildflowers blowing in the wind all conjure up images of one being in a reflective mood or the scene being conducive to thought.

A few days ago I was sitting in a dentist’s chair with what seemed like half the hands in Brown County in my mouth. Picks and prongs were picking and pronging, drills were drilling and polishing gadgets were polishing. At helpless times like this, reflecting is one of the very few things you can do. Amid the oral chaos I found myself reflecting on what is admittedly a bizarre application of the health care debate.

Now follow me on this… it could get tricky.

I recall my father evaluating the worth and health prognosis of farm animals on “what kind of shape their teeth are in.” I remember years ago Dad prying around in the mouths of horses, cattle, sheep and even dogs. I think the rationale was that if their teeth were shot, they couldn’t chew their food; hence, they were in the throes of an irretrievable downward health spiral.

This was all prior to the age of cosmetic surgery for animals. I recall comments like “no point calling the vet, her teeth are shot” or “no need wasting any more money on medicine, his teeth are broken off.” It seemed that any further investment of time or treasure depended in large measure what shape the teeth were in.

Now, let me be clear, I have some dental issues and I’m hoping that when I need some serious health care they don’t ration it based on the condition of my teeth, or what’s left of them anyway. I certainly would not want my father on the “Palin death panel” peering into my mouth and determining that “his teeth are shot. Collect the insurance premiums until he dies but no more aspirin.”

Based on all the noise being perpetrated and propagated one would think any overhaul of the health care system will involve a simple coin flip as to whether one will be able to get a broken arm re-set much less get access to something more technical about something more serious. In fact, it seems that given the published compensation packages of some health care company CEOs that’s about the probability that any of your premiums will come back to you when you need them anyway.

One such CEO was recently reported by MSNBC to be getting paid $890,000 a day. All of sudden everything comes into focus. My premiums go up, my coverage goes down… aaahhh (as in just say aahhh) now I get it. CEO gets $700,000, 000 in stock options… last year’s actual, incidentally and nearly a million dollars a day and hospitals and doctors go unpaid or paid in part… sometimes a very small part by the insurance company’s merry band of creative claims denying racketeers.

Current health care coverage really is not so complex. I don’t understand what all the hubbub is about. Why should there be any debate? The current system is working like a well-oiled machine… if you are Mr. CEO and your lead lobbyist is Tom Daschle, the man who would have been Secretary of Health and Human Services had he not forgotten to pay his taxes.

In the final analysis, you can either send your premiums to Mr. CEO or you can have Dad look at your teeth. Either way, your chances don’t look very good for accessing the best health care system in the world.

John Kliebenstein is circulation and operations manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesdays. E-mail him at john.kliebenstein@

brownwoodbulletin.com.