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breakthrough yet, at least from the standpoint of finance and publicity, is the “rock opera” Earl of Ruston, which is playing at Armadillo through mid-February. Earl of Ruston is a big-name attraction co-authored by C. C. Courtney and Peter Link, who last year were voted most promising songwriting team by the New York critics for their off-Broadway production, “Salvation.” Courtney came along just in time to save Armadillo from financial crisis. Courtney had his company all ready to open in New Orleans, but decided the “vibes” were bad there. He had heard of Austin’s reputation as a town with a large freak population that is on good terms with the straight community. When he found out about Armadillo, he moved the production to Austin, without opening in New Orleans. The play is about Courtney’s uncle Earl, the town crazy of Ruston, La. Earl died two years ago after spending most of his life in mental hospitals. C. C. remembers him as a “gentle, peaceful, beautiful human being who simply lived in a world of his own.” Earl’s mother plays herself on stage. Courtney said he decided to write a musical about Earl after reading works by R. D. Laing, the provocative British psychiatrist who believes that madness, especially what is loosely termed schizophrenia, is an intelligent adjustment to this world’s conflicting demands. The play, a comedy set to music, asks the question, “Who’s really crazy?” Aside from the financial windfall for Armadillo, Ed Wilson hopes that Earl of Ruston will attract a wider audience to the place; so that Armadillo will not be confined, to a restrictive image as an esoteric “hippie place.” They have already had such visitors as a state senator and Don Meredith, and they expect the widespread advertising for Earl of Ruston to attract many more straights. Wilson would like to break down some of the barriers between hip and straight in Austin so that the Arts Laboratory can function on a broad base and avoid the insularity that could breed hostility and kill the entire project. The only thing that can stop Armadillo now is misunderstanding or maliciousness from the Wray Weddells of the straight news media. D . On health insurance By James Ridgeway Washington, D.C. Nixon’s scheme to change the health system looks like ersatz reform calculated to provide him with a popular image in time for the 1972 election. Before the lying starts, it may be helpful for readers to understand a bit about the politics involved. Unfortunately they have less to do with changing the medical system than with shoring up the decrepit insurance industry. The simple, obvious way to provide health care is to create a national health scheme, paid for by taxes, administered by government, and covering every citizen for any illness or injury anywhere at any time. Such a system would eliminate private insurers and Blue Cross-Blue Shield, strip the doctors of their private ambitions and lead to a decline in the use of hospitals. It would mean that everyone, rich or poor, would receive the same, equal treatment, if at all possible, within their immediate community, and not in some expensive central hospital. Now, of course, patients receive medical help depending on their ability to pay for it. Health insurance coverage applies generally only when the patient is treated within the hospital, even in instances where he could just as efficiently be treated in the doctor’s office or at home. This artifical demand for hospital space encourages hospital administrators to boost their rates ever higher. The rate increases are passed along by supine insurance officials to the consuming public. This insane system exists for the benefit of the medical empire builders, those doctors, hospital administrators and insurance company executives who make money and build political power by taking advantage of masses of ordinary people. It is this system Hard Times which Nixon in the name of “reform” proposes to shore up. WHILE HE was in Congress Nixon himself suggested various medical reforms. He suggested subsidizing individuals so they could pay insurance companies for health policies. And he proposed to lighten the risk to the insurers by having the government underwrite a portion of the risk. While the details of his new health program have not yet been decided, the broad outlines are known, and they bear a striking similarity to his earlier proposals. They are likely to include the following: A family health insurance scheme to replace Medicaid. This envisions a sort of medical food stamps program, whereby those qualifying as poor, will be subsidized by the government to buy a basic medical plan from private insurance companies or Blue Cross. The administration originally considered setting a funding limit of $500 per family of four, then raised it to $800. Actually, it costs about $1200 to insure a family of four. This proposal is accompanied by all the usual bunk about boosting the poor into a position where they can join the middle class, picking and choosing among the many different insurance policies. In reality, it would inflate the already over-inflated health market by pouring federal funds into the private insurance business, all without making any significant change in any aspect of the health care system. A second proposal will be for catastrophic medical insurance for middle and upper middle class families. It’s not clear whether this scheme would be administered by the Social Security Administration or by Blue Cross and the private insurors. Nixon is considering a special cigarette tax to help finance it. , The President’s proposals will probably also include a health maintenance option, a scheme to provide doctors with economic incentives if they treat people outside hospitals and a method for financing medical schools. There are other medical plans already before the Congress. The UAW is backing a national health insurance program which would pay for all illness and be administered by the government. The American Hospital Association wants the government to underwrite the cost of catastrophic insurance, but require people to pay for basic health insurance unless they qualify for subsidy under a means test. The AMA wants to provide tax deductions and backs a form of medical stamps for the poor. The private insurance companies and Blue Cross want the government to underwrite health insurance which they would administer. With the exception of the UAW scheme, none of these proposals envision any real change in the medical system. All of them, including Nixon’s, would be highly inflationary, pouring federal dollars into the existing inefficient system, providing an additional market for private insurance companies, and pushing doctors towards the middle class, instead of the poor where the need for medical attention is desperate. Any real change would involve plans for paying doctors the same amount for treating rich and poor, a re-definition of medical practice to emphasize the use of para-medical workers and an emphasis on treatment by para-medical personnel in homes or community clinics. There would be an added emphasis on preventive care. February 12, 19 71 19