Keeping the bristles at bay

Published 9:51 pm Thursday, July 5, 2012

What do last week’s health care ruling and grill brushes have in common? Not much on the face of it, but with some Kevin Bacon reasoning, the parallels appear.

Besides the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the central pillar of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, requiring every patient to purchase health insurance or be fined, one of the most provocative stories of the past week or so was the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s report on the devastation wrought by wire bristles dislodged from innocuous-seeming grill scrapers.

A single hospital system turned up 12 cases of grill-related wire bristle ingestion between July 2009 and November 2012.


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We all know what those bristles do to our carbonized, fat-encrusted outdoor cooking surfaces, and it’s not hard to imagine the swath of destruction they might cut through our delicate insides.

The more obvious connection between the two news events is how many previously uninsured meat lovers will now no longer face financial ruin by way of unseated steel bristles.

If an extra 30 million Americans gain coverage from the court’s decision, as has been reported, there’s bound to be a few.

The question of regulation is another area where the worlds of Obamacare and grill brushes collide.

Forcing everyone to have health insurance is a bit like requiring makers of grill-cleaning implements to ensure that steel bristles will not go awry and become glazed on to spare ribs or other cuts of meat.

Opponents of regulation would argue that, in both cases, market mechanisms work best to serve the people.

Keeping the reins of government loose allows health insurers to flourish, driving down the cost of coverage and extending it to the poor and destitute.

In the competitive heat of the modern marketplace — hotter than beneath the shimmering hood of a four-burner Weber at full blast — manufacturers would be falling over themselves to design grill brushes able to withstand being blasted into space, and so scrape their competitors.

But, regardless of how much proponents hyperventilate, reality usually doesn’t correspond with ideology.

Keeping government at bay has done wonders to promote self-reliance and creativity, and to create a diverse and organic society, but it’s never going to guarantee affordable health care for those deserving of it — all of us — or keep grill brush bristles at bay.

When you peel the layers of Bacon from your hamburger patty, you will see.