Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vote to help Sherry

An editorial in today's New York Times neatly outlines the candidates' health-care proposals and recommends Mr Obama's, but with reservations. You have time to read it. It's short --under 1500 words--and free of exaggerations, recriminations, accusations, and all the other -ations that characterize political ads nowadays.

Thanks to Mr Neff's job, I have good health insurance, though I'm not one of those "young, healthy workers" who might benefit from Mr McCain's proposals. Still, I'm a lot luckier than some of my friends, including one I talked with this weekend.

Sherry has no medical insurance. Her husband is seriously and chronically ill, and for the last decade she has spent most of her waking hours caring for him. A regular job is out of the question, and so they are trying to survive on his disability insurance. She thinks she is becoming diabetic, but she can't afford to find out--or to treat whatever condition is causing her discomfort. In another year or two, she'll qualify for Medicare, and then she hopes she'll be able to take care of her own health.

Fortunately, her husband is a veteran from way back when veterans got excellent benefits, and they live near a town with a VA hospital. His health care is excellent. But they are now coming to a crossroad, and Sherry doesn't know what to do.

His health continues to deteriorate, and he may soon need full-time custodial care. It is available, but it costs over $6000 a month. The only way they could afford the fees would be to apply for Medicaid assistance--that is, to go on welfare. But if they did that, she told me, they would lose their VA prescription benefit--an unthinkable option, since her husband is being kept alive and manageable by means of an expensive pharmacopoeia.

So this exhausted woman in her 60s, at the risk of her own health and life, will continue round-the-clock caring for the chronically ill, difficult man she loves and promised to care for in sickness and in health. She'll do this for as long as it takes. Maybe for as long as she lives.

In my first draft of this blogpost, I wrote, "Her faithfulness is inspiring. I hope it will inspire you to vote for the candidate most likely to offer her the relief she desperately needs. And I hope the relief comes before she collapses."

A reader pointed out that neither candidate's program is likely to solve Sherry's particular problem, and I agree. So here's an alternate closing paragraph:

When you go to the polls, keep Sherry in mind, along with the other 45.7 million Americans who lacked health insurance in 2007 (the number dropped from 47 million in 2006 thanks to government-funded health insurance programs, according to David Johnson, chief of the Census Bureau's Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division). Both candidates want to increase the percentage of Americans with health insurance. Which one is more likely to do so? And which will give more relief to those who need it most--the old, the sick, and the unemployed?

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