It's that season again, and we're back in the Land of Oz on Beacon Hill.

With their latest lame try at curbing health-care costs, once again, members of the Great and General Court live up to their popular image as some of the state's best paid creeps and sleazebags.

You can easily get the text of their bills from the Web, but unlike the bills in Congress, you won't find much about what they might actually do or why it might actually work. What you might find is a flabby, cynical promise, in another place: "the bill guarantees significant savings to families."

And why is that? Well--their usual opinions of you are that unless you are a really big contributor, you're just a jerk, and they don't owe you the time of day.

Now, as will sometimes happen, there is a bit of honest talent in the place--maybe 20 or 30 out of the 200 officeholders--just enough for exceptions to prove the rule, but they don't run the shop.

What you're left with is to read the bills...and groan. No. 4127 in the House will can the "great reform" of only four years ago. Now, instead of a "commissioner of health care finance and policy," there will be an "executive director of the division of health care cost and quality."

Yes, indeed! An "executive director"--that will surely, surely work miracles!

It goes on, and on, and on--just like that. Nothing there but sounds of papers shuffling--until you get to the one and only slice of "red meat."

It's all in Sections 46 and 47: a "statewide medical spend benchmark."

So what happens when--not if--but when spending rises above the "benchmark"? The "division may review," and the "division may take actions"...or then again, the "division" may not. Listen carefully, for sounds of papers shuffling.

Now since not all members of the Great and General Court are compleat fools, a few will likely know about the wonderful federal plan--of the same sort--to be found in the Budget Reconciliation Act of 1997.

That plan set annual benchmarks--of the same sort--for Medicare. If spending rose above the limits, then it ordered cuts in reimbursements--not "may review" or "may reduce"--just do it.

So how comes it that Medicare costs are still heading for the moon?

Ask your Representative in Congress, who probably voted for the 23rd--or maybe it's the 24th--so-called "doc fix." After only one round of real cuts, Congress caved in, and caved in again. Not yet! Don't cut yet!

If not now, then when?