Hippocrates: Good day, Socrates. I see that you walk with the step of a healthy man these days. I trust the former injury to your foot is now well healed.
Socrates: To be sure, my good friend and physician. Once again I find myself healed well, if not well-heeled. (chuckles to himself) But tell me, Hippocrates, what do you make of the recent resurgence of heated political debate in the Senate concerning our newly passed health care law?
Hippo: Ah, my good Socrates, know you not that the opposition has sworn to dismantle the law even before it is enacted? For they have sworn an oath to have it annulled before the legislative session is brought to a close.
Soc: By whose authority?
Hippo: By the mandate of the voters in the mid-term elections of last fall. The opposition is claiming victory on the basis of the mandate for change.
Soc: But I was of the understanding that the law contained many desirable provisions to enhance the coverage of health care for the citizens of Athens—forbidding third-party payers to deny coverage for preexisting conditions, guaranteeing the portability of coverage, removing the provision for lifetime caps on payments for care, and so on.
Hippo: What you say is true, my friend. But those of the opposition argue that the law is unconstitutional because it mandates coverage for all citizens—
Soc: (breaking in) Excuse me, Hippocrates, but is that not a good and desirable thing, to have coverage for all our citizens?
Hippo: To be sure, it is—but in this instance the law mandates that coverage be purchased by individual citizens if they have no provision for coverage from their employer.
Soc: I was under the impression that universal coverage was to be enacted as a right of every Athenian citizen.
Hippo: Alas, the single payer option was defeated in the preliminary debate. The lobbyists for the health insurance industry made certain of that through the influence of much silver coin in the pockets of the politicians. Likewise, the sorcerers bought their influence to insure that the price of pharmaceuticals could not be negotiated in the Agora.
Soc: It seems as though that which began as a good and noble idea has been degraded through bribes, trickery and quiet whisperings behind the scenes.
Hippo: Legislation is crafted much in the same way as sausage, good Socrates. In each instance the process is best left undisclosed to prevent a sudden surge of nausea and queasiness of the stomach.
Soc: Tell me, Hippocrates; is there no way to retain the noble points of the law while discarding the undesirable tenets?
Hippo: Undesirable to whom, Socrates? To those with influence and power? They will see the entire piece of legislation rescinded before compromising on these points. In the end we live in an era where the winner takes all in politics.
Soc: But our Athenian government is based on the premise of democratic rule. Ultimately, the people decide their common weal.
Hippo: Have you not heard that our supreme court has ruled that the multimillion drachmae corporations must be considered as bona fide entities having a political voice? A fist full of drachmae speaks louder than the jingle of pennies in a purse.
Soc: Then our democracy—
Hippo: Is but an oligarchy, my dear Socrates. Or better stated, a plutocracy in which the great wealth of the few controls the destiny of the many.
Soc: And what of the middle class, those of the artesian guilds and such?
Hippo: Alas, Socrates, they continue to disappear from the Athenian social strata. The gap has widened between those who have and those who have not.
Soc: What! Is there no political solution to this dilemma, Hippocrates?
Hippo: Perhaps, Socrates. You should pose that question to your old student and politico, Plato. He might be able to offer a feasible plan. I’m told he spends his days engaged in drafting a treatise that deals with such issues. He calls it The Republic.
Soc: Indeed, he has written “the price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”