Archive for July 23rd, 2009

Drainage systems and health care

This will be a short entry as I’ve just finished my summer course on consumerism, and will continue to work on the drainage project at the house.   This project was supposed to be a two day effort starting on Monday.    We ordered 60 cubic yards of sand and 36 cubic yards of small stones.   We got 500 feet of pipe (perforated) and fabric.   It seemed like a straight forward project.  Rent a digger for the day and dig the trench (as well as pull out some stumps from the land we cleared out back).  Then on day two lay the pipe, cover it, and the job will be done (renting a different truck to haul and sand and rocks back and forth).

But as we got into it we found first of all that the job took more time than anticipated.   Since I’m teaching I can only work in the morning, or after I bring the kids home at about 5:00.   My wife works too, so her brother and his son do most of the work (and her brother designed the project).    Then there were other things that needed to be done, the job expanded so that most of our yard is being covered with sand (meaning we’ll have to get soil to put on top and reseed).   We missed a dinner with friends we’d planned for Tuesday,  we had to pay a babysitter to watch the kids so we could all work without interruption.

I pick up the boys in about twenty minutes.   Then they’ll play in their sandbox as we continue to work.   There is a heavy drenching rain in the forecast, which means we need to get this done tonight.

So what does this have to do with health care?   Though I believe we need major health care reform and hope Congress passes something soon, it’s a cautionary tale.   A project appears tractible at first.   For us, two days, and a certain amount of money (I’m not being secretive — I just haven’t calculated the amount).   Everyone involved has done things relating to every aspect of this project before, but none of us have actually done the work of building a drainage system around a house.

We get into it, and problems arise, the job expands, some things are harder than expected, and the costs rise.   Not only in time, but more on truck rental fees, more sand, more rocks, babysitter fees, etc.   Health care reform will be very difficult, it won’t be a panacea where suddenly things will get better and costs will go down.  The Republicans warning about hidden costs and unknown side effects should be taken seriously, those things are legitimate and real concerns.

Yet, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.   Though our basement has stayed dry, our house in the woods not far from a little river has had water problems in the yard since we bought it.   It’s been not only an inconvenience, but sometimes water from the leach field of the spectic system got pushed up to the surface with normal water drainage.  When this is done, we should have a dry yard that will be safe and can be shaped to our design.  This plus the clearing we made in the woods (whose cost and work also have been expanding — though put on hold for “drainage week”) will make our home a fundamentally better place to live.

And I’m convinced that getting the health care system in order will ultimately make our country a better place, especially as our population ages and retires.   I don’t pretend to know how best to do it, or if the House bill is the best idea — though the AMA is supporting it as are many health care professionals, people who were against it before, so that’s a good sign.

But be expected to have things change along the way, with a need to improvise, spend more money and address unexpected complications.   That’s a reality in almost every worthwhile task, from drainage systems to health care systems!