In the past I have written about the fact that I enjoy reading the “funnies” in the newspapers each morning. Even as a small child I looked forward to them, going straight to the comic section when the paper arrived in our mailbox.

Often today’s funnies aren’t always that funny anymore. They are all too frequently satirical snips that promote pointy agendas, but a few never fail to entertain, or at least interest my wife and me.

One of these is Pluggers, which is carried in the big “fish wrapper” to the east and depicts the day to day trials and tribulations of everyday people — those who just keep plugging along.

One of the cartoons which particularly caught my attention was captioned, “You’re a senior plugger if all the pharmacists know your name.” This one was especially poignant to me, as I thought of my mother-in-law, Harriet Hocker, who lives in Pflugerville just outside of Austin.

About a year and a half ago her husband, Edwin, passed away, and the locally-owned pharmacy sent both food and flowers to the family. Now there’s a tight knit community, though a facet of America that is quickly vanishing.

Another Pluggers cartoon that caught my attention a few days ago was similar in nature and was captioned, “You’re a plugger when your prescriptions cost more than your groceries.” This one is not a laughing matter. In fact, as my momma might say, “It just makes my blood boil.” My daddy might have phrased it a bit differently, though the same basic thought would have prevailed.

Have we Americans always been so greedy that we force the “pluggers” within our own communities to decide between medicine and food? It’s happening far too often, and I personally know many of these people. They are not worthless undeserving derelicts, they are not criminals, and they are not the trifling sort that aren’t worth the cost of a bullet to shoot them. They are honest, hardworking, often self-employed, middle-classed individuals who are under the age of 65 and are not covered by job-related medical and prescription coverage.

I suppose there are many factors that have contributed to this sorry state of affairs within our medical and pharmaceutical arena. The first one that comes to mind is enactment of Medicare in the 1960s, and the injection of massive amounts of federal dollars into medicine. With the arrival of this perceived medical “cash cow,” big business jumped into healthcare like buzzards on a dead cow.

It took a few years for the situation to evolve into the current disastrous state. The current trend of a globalized economy only makes the problem worse. Government oversight seems only to aid business interests, not the plugger.

In recent years there has been much debate about the relative costs of prescription medications. Many Americans are currently buying drugs overseas in either Canada or Mexico for pennies on the dollar compared to brand name medicines here. Some of these drugs are made overseas, while many of them are manufactured in the U.S. and shipped to other countries, and then sold back here at huge discounts.

How do you explain this one? There have been many excuses ranging from stringent U.S. FDA requirements to recouping of research costs, but they all smell like Exxon/Mobil’s reasons for doubling the price of gasoline after Hurricane Katrina — fishy.

In recent years, every time I go to the doctor’s office I have to fight tooth and toenail for a parking place among the BMWs or a seat in the waiting room because of all the pharmaceutical reps waiting to peddle their wares to the physicians. Doctors are bombarded by the sales pitches of the reps, as well as the demands for magic potions from their patients.

It is no wonder that we, here in America, are the most pampered, laziest and overmedicated nation in the history of the world. With such abundance, it’s a crying shame that a huge segment of our population must decide which medications to skip, or cut their pills in half because they can’t afford to take a whole one.

Even the illegal immigrants who flood our emergency rooms daily are eligible for free medical treatment and drugs funded by your tax dollars — it has been mandated by the federal courts. This, my friend, is nothing more than socialized medicine.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our own citizens could receive the same free or affordable prescription medications?

Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy Commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to Columns submitted to The Weatherford Democrat by guest writers reflect the opinions of the writer and in no way reflect the beliefs or opinions of The Weatherford Democrat.

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