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Hoosier Life and Casualty. Ian Woollen. A novel about healthcare reform

As we await the momentous decision for the Supreme Court this week on health care, Hoosier Life and Casualty is apropos. It focuses on our venal, ineffective health care system as well as on class. I’d say our health care system is ineffective primarily because it is venal, easily gamed by insurance companies, and concerned almost entirely with short-term profits. And social class is still somewhat of a taboo topic here in the States because we delude ourselves into thinking we don’t have social classes here.

Happily, Hoosier Life and Casualty delves into both topics with a story about a stoner guy from the wrong side of the tracks and his relationship with a young woman heiress to an insurance company in Indianapolis. Yes, it’s a love story (sort of) but is also about class differences and most especially about weasely insurance companies and is a fun read. Woollen has a sly sense of humor and prefers the skewer to the bludgeon when satirizing.

At least I hope it’s satire. You never know with insurance companies. At one point Hoosier Life and Casualty makes a bundle by buying life insurance policies at steep discounts from those with AIDs who need the money, assuming they will die quickly, then sells them all quickly when new drugs appear that could prolong their lives. They also finagle a way to have PTSD classified as a pre-existing disorder so they won’t have to pay claims for returning military.

Hoosier Life & Casualty is a book with a substantive point — that corporate endeavors have got Americans coming and going, degrading our environment to such an extent that our health fails us, then demanding that we pony up ever-higher insurance fees to cover treatment for that collective pre-existing condition.

Our environment now, most thanks to corporatism, has so many toxins in it that insurance companies can long long assume it is unchanging. This changes their actuarial tables in unpredictable way. Of course insurance companies then do their best to deny claims or take years to resolve them in hopes that the patient dies first.

Hoosier Life and Casualty contains a serious look at the striations of class and status in America and makes a strong case for corporate psychopathology as a serious field in need of study. How in the world are we to live and prosper with these monstrous entities, both family and corporate, when we understand so little about them?

Woollen develops his characters well. They come across as real people. There’s a political point here but it’s not heavy-handed, and that’s a good thing because it allows Woollen to makes his points with humor as you read this enjoyable novel.

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