Friday, March 8, 2013

'Drawing the black bean' when it comes to health care

Mark Outlaw, Scott And White, Ben Perry, County Commissioner
Waco – A mosaic of the blue flame logo of the Lone Star Gas Company emblazons the lobby floor of the Sheriff's Department (MCSO) headquarters at 901 Washington Ave.

Inside the vestibule, all is air conditioned, indirectly lit anonymity, the people who work there shielded by substantial glass panels in their contact with the public. A locked double door leads up a short flight of stairs to the interior corridors of the building.

An attractive blonde sales executive
It's a cop shop, all right. Warm. Inviting. Bullet-proof.

One is reminded of Alexander Solzhenitzyn's meticulous identification of the former capitalist identities of the various administrative buildings of the Stalinist Soviet gulag's alphabet soup agencies. KGB. NKVD. GRU. The Lubyanka Prison in downtown Moscow – into which multitudes disappeared forever - was the former headquarters of a certain life insurance company - and so forth.

Today, at 7:30 a.m., on a crisp March Thursday morning, all is smiling political decorum as back-slapping courthouse honchos gather and greet each other for an unusual meeting of the Commissioners Court off-campus from its usual digs four blocks down the street, under the double dome of the courthouse, with its spread-eagled birds of prey perpetually prepared for takeoff.

The department heads of local government are here to get the good news. They gather around a breakfast spread of strawberries, grapes, apple slices and other healthful finger foods. Steaming pots of coffee stand ready to open eyes.

The message:

It's all about the insurance.

Affordable insurance, post-Obamacare insurance. Health insurance.

A former police officer, Precinct 4 Commissioner Ben Perry, whose present-day calling is insurance, is standing in for interim County Judge appointee Scott Felton, who is absent due to the tragic death in the family of a pre-school child.

He warms the crowd up with a quick joke.

A cowboy rides into a frontier town and bellies up to the bar for a beer in the local saloon.

When he goes back outside to reclaim his noble steed and forge onward, the beast is missing, saddle, bridle, bedroll, carbine, saddle bags – and all.

It's a friendly town, prone to pranks played on strangers just passing through, Mr. Perry explains. He leaves out the notion of whether the cowboy is aware of this, but, as the story goes, the cowpoke heads back into the saloon for another brewski.

He addresses the room in general, saying, “If my horse isn't tied back to that hitching rail when I get back out there, I'm gonna have to do what I did down in Texas.”

Silence. Deafening. And words to that effect.

He goes back out and, happily, finds his horse, which he mounts and resumes his journey.

A stranger stops him, inquiring in confidential tones, “What DID you do down in Texas, stranger?”

Sheriff Parnell McNamara
The laconic reply. “Walked.”

Laughter. Polite. Nervous. Noncommital.

An attractive blonde account executive of Scott & White Health Plan takes the floor, and says of a scheme to gather information on employees' health conditions, “If you we can't get buy-in, we can't control escalating premiums.”

The cause of the escalation?

The Affordable Health Care and Patient Protection Act of 2010, she says. Obamacare.

The last time they tried this, she says, out of 640 employees and 480 dependents, only about 70 took the health conditions test. She adds, "Some people just drew the black bean when it comes to hereditary health issues." She makes a reference to diabetes.

Mr. Perry interjects, saying that it's “totally illegal” for employers to have access to the information thus gleaned. Nevertheless, he explained, “They thought we were going to see the results, which is a total violation of the law...This is a very safe and secure process.”

The only option we have is to encourage people to live a little healthier.” For instance, smokers already pay a much higher premium than do non-smokers.

What to do? Apply peer pressure. Encourage people to walk a minimum of 15 minutes a day. And take a health-risk assessment on-line.

The high claims only makes up a few,” she shared, “but if people would only go to the doctor and learn about high blood pressure, they may be able to prevent a heart attack...That nurse becomes a friend...”

It's only going to get harder to schedule an appointment with the doctor, the lady from the insurance company said, wistfully, “as we go along with health care reform.”

Smiling faces, back-slapping bonhomie
The bottom line turns out to be this, according to Mark Outlaw, Strategic Account Representative for Scott & White.

Either see a health care nurse for an on-site health assessment exam - with no co-pay required - or pay an additional $60 per month premium, he said.

His tone, matter of fact. His demeanor, resolved. It is the tone and tenor employoed by the parent, the guardian, the ever-watchful one who knows what's good for you.

His co-worker had said, earlier, “We're going to have to take care of each other.”

Commissioner Kelly Snell read the adjournment into the minutes of the Court session, and that was it. Handshakes, smiling faces, bonhomie - all around - and it was all over.


  1. Who will run against Ben Perry or how many will run against him and Lester Gibson.

  2. Grits for Breakfast mentioned your Blog Legendary.