Philip Morris for President

d_Ramos.jpg (9787 bytes)When the Bush Administration appointed former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Republicans were convinced that they had tagged the ideal person to direct one of the nation’s top government positions. Most everyone likes Tommy Thompson including Republicans, health care executives, and even many Democrats. However, there is one individual who is even better suited for this position—an individual who could have gone down in history as having done the most to control and even reduce health care costs. He is Geoffrey C. Bible.

Who is Mr Bible you ask? Bible is the CEO of Philip Morris Co, the company that recently released a company-funded report1 in the Czech Republic promoting the fact that one of the positive effects of smoking is the early deaths of smokers, thereby saving the government money on health care, pensions, and housing. The study concluded that the Czech Republic dropped $147.1 million to the country’s bottom line based on the money it saved from smokers kicking the bucket well before their time and from excise taxes on cigarettes. (The company has since issued an official apology for that report.) Considering that the population of the Czech Republic (11 million) is about the same as Ohio, just think how much money Bible could save the US health care system if he was the head of HHS. By working diligently to see that Americans drop dead at the ripe old age of 55, Bible would be the nation’s savior of the Medicare system and of Social Security (to name a couple of government programs that are on the verge of bankruptcy).

And, hey, why stop at smokers? With Bible at the helm, here are a few suggestions as to how we can ensure that most Americans never see their grandchildren attend kindergarten:

• Lower the drinking age to 12. We could get Johnnie and Sally to shoot tequila and down six-packs of Budweiser before they become teenagers. This is certain to increase the number of deaths from liver disease and fatalities while driving under the influence.

• Eliminate seat belts. Not only would this increase the number of traffic fatalities, but Americans could save tons of money on dry cleaning since seat belts are a prime contributor to wrinkled clothes. With the extra disposable money, people would be able to buy more cigarettes and alcohol.

• Get rid of that helmet law for people who ride motorcycles. Everyone knows that half the fun of riding a Harley is the feel of fresh air (Los Angeles dwellers excluded) blowing through their hair. In addition, we could appeal to parents to stop forcing their kids to wear helmets while riding bicycles, skateboards, and roller blades. Every kid over the age of 6 knows that helmets do not look cool, no matter how many ’N Sync and Tony Hawk stickers are plastered on them. Plus, helmets mess up kids’ hair when it is spiked with gel.

• Offer an extra tax deduction to couch potatoes. Since President Bush signed the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, which is sending millions of checks to Americans during the summer of 2001, why not offer Americans who are at least 50 pounds overweight an additional 10% tax deduction? This would ensure that more Americans would drop dead of heart attacks and strokes from a lack of exercise well before retirement age.

• And finally, we should cave in to the National Rifle Association and make every type of weapon legal. Submachine guns, AK-47s, surface-to-air missiles—whatever anyone wants to arm himself with. As Archie Bunker proposed in an episode of All in the Family back in the 1970s, the way to stop airplane hijackings is to arm every passenger with a gun. That way, if someone tries to hijack the plane, the passengers pull out their guns and shoot him. This is an idea I believe would make total sense to a company like Philip Morris.

Now, I fully realize that those of us in the health care profession have been spending a lot of our time trying to figure out ways in which to help people live longer and healthier lives, but maybe we have been looking at things all wrong. Maybe what we need to do is embrace the lyrics of Billy Joel’s song, “Only the Good Die Young.”

Tony Ramos
ramos@medpubs.com

Reference
1. The New York Times. Philip Morris issues apology for Czeck study on smoking. Available at: http//www.nytimes.com/2001/07/27/business/companies/27CIG.html?searchpv=day04. Accessed on July 31, 2001.