A car wreck a few months ago left Jean Wentzel and her husband unharmed but shaken about being without affordable insurance to protect against the unexpected. “It spooks you, because you know you could walk out your door and something totally out of control could happen, even if you’ve done all the right things yourself.”
Jean, 63, and her husband, Roy, 64, retired recently and live in Columbus, Ohio. Both worked for large telecommunications companies and moved around a fair amount for their jobs. Jean worked for AT&T for 22 and a half years; she intended to stay the 25 required to qualify for insurance after retirement, until the office she worked in closed. She and Roy, who are too young for Medicare, are currently without retirement health plans.
Both exercise frequently, and neither is on any kind of medication. They have worked hard and lived frugally — as Jean says, “done all the right things.” Yet retiring without employer-provided insurance left them with few choices. Jean is on a private plan that is beyond her budget. She has no vision or dental coverage and has a $5,500 deductible, which she doesn’t reach, so she pays for her care out of pocket. Roy had hip-replacement surgery several years ago — considered a preexisting condition — which has made it impossible for him to get coverage. Instead he relies on limited veteran’s benefits, and has seen a doctor for only a couple of annual physicals and minor issues.
Their experience has made the couple enthusiastic supporters of the Affordable Care Act. Roy will be 65 — eligible for Medicare — this December, a date they’ve been counting down to and planning life events around for some time. Jean, a year younger, cannot wait to shop for a more affordable insurance plan on Ohio’s exchange in October. Without the ACA, “we would have no options besides what we have now, other than go back to work in a job with insurance. But finding a job at 63 and 64 at a company that would provide insurance? I don’t know how easy that would be.”
Jean is bothered by the perception that people who don’t have insurance are unemployed, don’t have money, or don’t want to pay. “There are a lot of people with very valid reasons for needing different approaches to insurance than what we have now.” She doesn’t mind paying more for insurance at her age, either, but the problem until now has been limited options.
Jean volunteers with ACA outreach efforts to help others learn about their insurance opportunities under the law, and she says the response has been overwhelmingly positive. “A lot of people in my community are passionate about this,” she says. “We’ve all got a story.”
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Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
“We haven’t seen a true leftist since FDR, so many millions are coming out of the woodwork to vote for Bernie Sanders; he is the Occupy movement now come to life in the political arena.” So says Bill Maher in his Hollywood Reporter cover story (more a stream-of-consciousness riff than an essay, actually). Conservative states may never vote for a socialist in the general election, but “this stuff has never been on the table, and these voters have never been activated.” Maher saves most of his bile for Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, writing that by nominating Palin as vice president “John McCain is the one who opened the Book of the Dead and let the monsters out.” And Trump is picking up where Palin left off.