"We're free, proud, and sick."
That's the motto of the Floyd Bunnywells, the remarkable Missouri family that has been selected "National Self-Reliant Sick Family of the Year" by Blue Spatula-Blue Sponge, as part of that company's campaign to keep the Government from completely taking over the country's health insurance.
"President Nixon sure said a mouthful when he declared that the U.S.A. would never let the Government foul up the medical system the way European governments have done," Floyd Bunnywell told me in the living room of the Bunnywells' snug Jefferson City bungalow. "Why, I've heard that in Sweden where they have socialized medicine you can never find a doctor on a Wednesday afternoon."
"It sounds as though your attitude is one the President would appreciate," I said. "Is that why you were chosen Self-Reliant Sick Family of the Year?"
"That was only half of it," Doreen Bunnywell said from the daybed where she lay with her left leg in a cast. "Our big accomplishment was paying $9,498 in medical bills last year out of our $12,600 income. Blue Spatula told us we set a new record."
"They considered that an accomplishment?"
"Sure, why not?" Floyd Bunnywell wheezed as he reached for a bottle of pink medicine on the coffee table. "It sets an example for the free-loaders--all those bums who, if the Government offered comprehensive health insurance, would be rushing in off the street for free tracheotomies and liver transplants."
"I see. Well, I guess that was quite a feat paying all those bills yourself."
"Oh, Blue Spatula-Blue Sponge helped too," Doreen Bunnywell explained. "They paid half of the $4,000 surgical bill for the removal of Floyd's laminated escargot. They would have paid the whole thing for a ruminated escargot, but a laminated escargot isn't entirely covered."
"Why not?" I asked.
"It was a previous condition. The doctor said Floyd's escargot probably started laminating when he was around two years old, and he just let it go. It was his own fault."
"Well, Floyd, you seem to have recovered nicely anyway."
"From that operation, yes. But I'm still a little sore from last week's kidney stone operation."
"I suppose Blue Sponge paid all the costs for that one," I said.
"Well, no. Last month we were a day late sending in the Blue Sponge premium and they stuck us with the bill for the kidney operation. But that's all right. A man likes to be able to sit back and say, 'I earned the removal of those kidney stones.'"
"That's right," Doreen Bunnywell added. "The American people just don't want good health care pushed down their throats."
"I see that you've had some medical problems too, Mrs. Bunnywell. Did you also go it alone?"
"You bet I did. Naturally, I wouldn't have minded if BS-BS had paid for part of the costs. But my problems weren't covered."
"What was the matter?"
"A piece of the comet Kohoutek landed on me while I was placing a geranium, on Grandpa's grave--he had his stroke over in Klovenhoof City, poor thing, and wasn't a subscriber to the ambulance service over there. Anyway, after the comet dropped on me I developed a surrealyptic carrot on my leg and an acute fat lip."
"I don't understand why your insurance didn't cover that."
"It was an act of God, which doesn't count. Anyway, they said fixing the fat lip would be considered cosmetic surgery, which isn't covered under any circumstances."
"I can't say I'm as certain as you are that the nation's moral fiber would be weakened if the Government used some of your own tax dollars to help get you through these hard times," I said.
"It's not necessary," said Floyd Bunnywell emphatically. "We can always take out a fifth mortgage on the house. And by tightening our belts a little we've already started to save up for the appendectomy the doctor says I need."
"Mr. Bunnywell, I guess I can agree that you're 'proud and sick.' But I'm not so sure about 'free.'"
"Well, we do owe the bank several hundred thousand dollars. But they've promised they won't repossess my pacemaker as long as I make the minimum payment each month. So, what have I got to worry about? And I have that nice Blue Spatula-Blue Sponge certificate hanging on the wall as a symbol of my independence."
"It must be a comfort," I said.
"It is that," said Floyd Bunnywell, looking wonderfully free, mighty proud, and quite sick.
Richard Lipez is a columnist for the Amherst Record in Massachusetts.