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Bah, Humbug in 1999 -- Santa's HMO Cancelling His Coverage

Boston, MA--Accusations and recriminations flew thicker than during the defection of the New England Patriots to neighboring Connecticut when it was disclosed today that Santa Claus' health insurance will be cancelled in April of 1999 -- and that the fault lies squarely at the doorstep of the Massachusetts Legislature.

Santa Claus, who each year spends his nine-month 'off season' in the little Cape Cod town of Noswenyerah Wake under his legal name of Carmine K. Cringle, displayed at a packed press conference today a letter from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the entity that provides his HMO coverage. The letter informs Cringle that his health coverage will be terminated in April of 1999, and that because he is self-employed, he no longer qualifies for non-group coverage with HPHC.

"They're basically tossing me out," said Cringle sadly. "We've been with them ever since they got started, and Gretchen --that's the missus-- Gretchen and I were doing wheat weaving and landscape art classes to tide us over the summer. Outside of my summer pollen allergies I've been in great shape this year, and Gretchen runs in a few road races for charity during the summer months. But our history and health doesn't count for anything, I guess."

Oncle Stylofleur, Vice President of Legal Affairs and Public Relations at HPHC, roundly challenged the statement that Santa Claus is being denied coverage after next April. "That is categorically untrue, although we would be within our rights since the subscriber apparently has been dealing with us through an assumed identity, namely one 'Carmine K. Cringle.' The fact is, Mr. Cringle can continue with HPHC if he joins a small business group in Massachusetts. Our requirement is that all self-employed people seeking coverage must be a member of some approved group. If you avail yourself of the freedom to choose to be self-employed, then you should also avail yourself of the freedom to be a member of a group of which we approve. I don't wish to put too fine a point on it, but Mr. Cringle is the only one out of the 25,000 people we are cancelling in April 1999 who has chosen to whine about the matter. I think that statistic speaks for itself."

"You know, it stinks," remarked Eduardo, Head Elf of Electronic Consumer Products. In an IRC interview, Head Elf Eduardo pointed out that "Carmine, he's a one-of-a-kind guy. Unique, you know. Everyone knows that he delivers all those presents in one night, but what most people don't know is that he's licensed in all airspaces and airport regions as long as he keeps up the paper work--refresher courses, pilot's license and the like. And he's required to have health insurance. We wish we could get him in on our plan, but...well, we're labor and he's management. The union won't go for it."

Contacted at the Reindeer Training Facility in Sarasota, Florida, lead reindeer Rudolph paused during carbo loading in preparation for the Big Flight to wax reflective on the whole matter. "It's, like, so ironic--Santa offers one of the best benefit packages there is for elves and reindeer, but he can't use it himself. Donner thought maybe we could take Dr. Katzenburgh out and get her drunk, but no matter how loaded we get her, there's no way our vet is going to believe that Santa is a reindeer."

Cringle, who this summer flew part-time for Federal Express and acted as woodworking consultant to the _Home Improvement_ television series, says that getting a 'stamp of approval' by joining a selective business association presents "a real crisis of conscience for me. After all, 'Santa Claus' belongs to everyone. If I sell out and join an exclusive group for the sake of getting health care coverage, my credibility and impartiality will be called into question. And what am I supposed to do about all the requests I'm getting now? 'Dear Santa, I would like health care coverage this Christmas.' What am I supposed to do -- leave them a note that says 'Get a real job with real benefits?'"

Workers at the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Insurance Commissioner's office are routing all calls about non-group health insurance cancellations to a pre-recorded message advising that consumers should contact their representative in the Massachusetts Legislature. But the representatives we tried to contact had left for the Christmas holidays and could not be reached for comment. One staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, bemoaned the fact that "the Legislature cut this deal with the insurance companies two years ago. Who knew the [Patriots] were going to leave, for crying out loud? Dissolving a class of health care insurance and leaving 25,000 folks without insurance is one thing, but that AND losing the Patriots to Connecticut? I mean, it makes the Legislature look incompetent. We're victims of really poor timing. Then to cap it all off, it turns out that Santa Claus summers on the Cape and is one of the 25,000 being offed. The public needs to keep this all in perspective and realize that this isn't our fault."

Meanwhile, offers of free health care coverage for Santa and Mrs. Claus are pouring in through Cringle's fax machine. "One even included the bonus of a new stadium," sighed Cringle. "But I'm used to paying my own way, and not trading on my identity as 'Santa Claus' to get special benefits."

Cringle looked thoughtful.

"Well, OK," he conceded with a jolly grin. "I confess. I *do* look forward to the cookies and milk."

Reported by the Daily Apocrypha News Staff. All rights reserved. © 1998.

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