VITAL SIGNSrnCOMMONWEALrnHillary Clinton andrnMy Grandmother’srnToenailsrnby Ron CourtneyrnMy grandmother was a frugal lady.rnShe was a warm, friendly, andrnloving person, but she could squeeze arndollar until George Washington’s eyesrncrossed. When she frosted a cake shernused only half of each ingredient in thernrecipe, so the frosting was paper-thin andrntended to disappear after a dav or two,rnbut she always had a slice for us kidsrnwhen we wanted it.rnGrandmother’s legendary parsimonyrnextended to all areas of her life. For example,rnno one in the family can rememberrnher going to see a doctor during herrnfirst 85 years. I’m sure she had her sharernof colds and flu, but she would neverrnhave been willing to pay for a doctor’s advicernor treatment unless it was absolutelyrnnecessary. Most people of her generationrnfelt the same way about doctors,rnwhich is one of the primary reasons whyrnmedical care was far less expensive inrnGrandmother’s dav.rnBeing a practical person, Grandmotherrndecided around age 86 to sell herrnhouse and rent an apartment in a “seniorrncitizens’ home,” where she would havernthe securitv of other people around herrnand a professional staff to call on if needed.rnThe high rent seemed to be justifiedrnby the amenities offered. One of thesernamenities was free medical care.rnOf course, the medical care was notrnfree at all. It was paid for by Medicarernand by the tenants themselves as part ofrntheir rent, but since none of the seniorsrnever had to write a check to pay for a doctor’srnvisit, the medical care appeared tornbe free. This was when the great changernin my grandmother’s attitude towardrndoctors occurred.rnOne da) wlien I was visiting Grandmotherrnshe told me she had just gottenrnback from the doctor. I was surprisedrnto hear this because I knew of her longrnnonmvohement with the medicalrnprofession and because she appearedrnto be in excellent health. When I askedrnher what was the matter, she smiled andrnsaid, “Well, nothing. I just had mvrntoenails clipped.”rnHer toenails clipped! I was stunned!rnCould this be my grandmother, the onernwho saved her used Christmas wrappingrnpaper to reuse the following year, goingrnto a doctor to have her toenails cut? Seeingrnmy disbelief, she said, “It doesn’trncost me a thing! All my doctor visitsrnhere are free.”rnThen I understood whv my grandmotherrnwould reverse her lifelong attituderntoward doctors, and why, as I laterrnlearned, she was a frequent visitor at therndoctor’s office although she had no realrnhealth problems other than the normalrnones of aging. As long as there was a directrnconnection between her pocketbookrnand the doctor’s office. Grandmotherrnavoided doctors whenever possible. Asrnsoon as her medical care appeared to bernfree (or prepaid through her rent), goingrnto the doctor became part of her regularrnroutine. Of course, the same thingrnoccurred to all the other residents ofrnGrandmother’s senior complex and therndemand for medical care hit the stratosphere.rnThe next year, and every year afterrnthat, the rent went up dramaticalK’ tornpay for all this “free” health care. It isrnnow so exorbitant that my grandmotherrnwould never have considered movingrninto the complex had she been asked tornpay at today’s rate. The senior complexrnis reputed to have serious financialrndifficulties.rnMy grandmother died of naturalrncauses several years ago at age 94. Nowrnalong comes Hillary Clinton, who wantsrnto establish the same kind of health carernfor the entire country through a systemrnof nationally socialized medicine.rnThanks to Mrs. Clinton, we’ll all be ablernto get our toenails clipped for “free.”rnHowever, since the law of supply andrndemand works relentlessh on both smallrnand large economic systems, the resultsrnof Mrs. Clinton’s plan will be the same asrnthose at Grandmother’s apartmentrncomplex; an explosion of demand forrnmedical attention followed by an enormousrnincrease in medical costs.rnAh, but Mrs. Clinton also has a plan tornsolve the higher medical costs caused bvrnher first plan: she will institute price controlsrnon doctor’s fees, hospital fees, prescriptionrndrugs, and anything else connectedrnwith the health of the Americanrnpeople. In other words, it will become arncrime for doctors or nurses or hospitalrnadministrators to raise their prices torncover their increased costs. This kind ofrngoernmcnt “solution” to social problemsrnwas tried in the Soviet Union, andrnit eventually destroyed the economy andrnthe whole fabric of societv there; peoplernlike Mrs. Clinton are now so discreditedrnthat they can’t even get a job clippingrntoenails in a Moscow beauty parlor. Myrngrandmother lived long enough to see allrnthis: it’s too bad for all of us that Mrs.rnClinton doesn’t see it, too.rnRon Courtney writes from Locust Hill,rnVirginia.rnThe Death ofrnNatural Causesrnby Robert WeissbergrnLet us begin with the obvious:rnsooner or later, everyone dies. EvenrnBill and Hillary say they know that. Nornamount of money will head off therninevitable. We cannot “cure” death likernwe might rebuild our inner cities or cleanrnup the air.rnAt best, we can use modern medicinernto cheat death for a few years. Instead ofrndving at 50, a person may die at 70. Obviously,rnhowever, there are biologicalrnlimits to this cheating. More important-rnJUNE 1994/41rnrnrn