Sue and Jenny

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It was in a little dingy town, one of many along the way to visit my daughter, Jenny, in Pagosa Springs, where I met Sue the waitress.

It’s a two -day trip for me (the way I drive), and somewhere along the way I usually look for a dirt road leading nowhere. There, off the main road a bit, I’ll roll out my sleeping bad and spend the night under the stars. But, come light in the east, I’m back on the road, looking for breakfast. This trip was no different, until I met Sue.

Sue was a big-hearted and friendly waitress, not unlike others I’ve met in little towns along the way. Like Joan in Delta and Sarah in Hanksville, Sue works long hours in a town that can’t support a restaurant with its population, and must rely on the occasional traveler to stay afloat. Like Joan and Sarah, Sue makes a tad more than minimum wage if you include the few tips she gets, less if you don’t.

Sue told me she’d like to leave town and get work in a larger city where she could make a little more money. But she knows rent is higher in other places and she hardly makes enough to pay the rent where she’s at. With no money, she’s hesitant to leave what she’s known all her life.

Sue poured me a refill of coffee and turned to get my check. There was a funny-looking, multi-colored blemish on the back of her neck, just above her collar.

“You might get that looked at,” I said when she returned, “It might be serious.”

She reached around to pull the collar up a little higher. “I know what it is,” she said, “and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“You don’t have insurance?”

“Sweetie,” she replied, “if I had the money for insurance I wouldn’t even be in this town! I can’t afford it, the owner doesn’t offer it, and, hell, he doesn’t have it either!”

“What country,” she asked, looking me straight in the eye, “are you from?”

That gave me something to think about as I drove on to Pagosa Springs and daughter Jenny.

You’d like Jenny. Most everyone in town knows her and likes her. She still drives the first car she ever owned, a classic Chevelle with a can’t-miss paint job. She’s young, pretty, hardworking and industrious. She’s her own boss and has been most of her life. She’s a naturally artistic person. For the last 10 years she’s owned and operated a florist shop. While there used to be five florists in town, with the economy the way it is, it is now down to Jenny’s and one other. She’s tenacious and not above taking a second job to keep her business afloat.

She promotes her business. Last year she was the first woman driver in the Pagosa Springs Destruction Derby held at the county fair. Her business’s name was plastered all over the car she used. She didn’t win, but the publicity helped her business. This year she did it again with another car and almost won. She received a few bruises but more sales orders too.

Jenny is so different from Sue, yet in one way they are alike. Jenny has no health insurance either. She told me, “Dad, there’s just no way.”

And so, on my trip home, I had more to think about. And questions come to mind.

Why are those groups of people — the ones who supposedly are for offering a “hand up instead of a handout” — not willing to help some hardest-working business people this country has by providing a realistic path to health insurance?

Why is it more important to protect huge health insurance conglomerates from competition by not allowing our people a public option to health care? Is it because, like the financial giants of Wall Street, these insurance companies have “grown too big to fail?”

Why are those who fought to keep a dying woman alive against her own stated wishes now turning their backs on Sue – and millions like her – who would prefer to live? Is it because she adds no value to their cause?

And, for Sue’s last question to me – “What country are you from?” I guess the answer is, sadly, a country where citizens are not as important as corporations.

Let’s work to change that.

Richard Douse is a north state resident.

Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Richard Douse
Richard Douse lives with his two favorite ladies: Tammy, his wife, and Ann Margret, his cat.  They live off the grid in a home they built themselves.  They grow their own food because they don’t trust corporations doing it for them.  Douse thinks of himself as a liberal.  He believes liberals are blue-collar folk who know how to work and think for themselves.  He believes that what we do, individually and collectively, in the next 10 years will determine whether civilization continues - or goes away.
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7 Responses

  1. Avatar clitav says:

    Thank you for helping to add some dimension to some of the faceless millions out there with this overwhelming need. I also know my own position is only slightly precarious as I have Medi-care and am limited to whatever they are willing to give, but it beats NOTHING which is the alternative for most! I used to be in the military health system, (A government run health program) and it was also a little weak, but I would rather have at least the access to BASIC health care evenif the more complicated cases do end in red tape! No one should have to die for the lack of some very simple and ofttimes frugal means!

  2. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Richard…I too have the Medi's, but this year lost all dental and eye care in this the greatest country in the world. I feel for young folks, my kids included , who must pay to a private insurance company almost $1500 a month and hope that that they pay the damn claim.

    Congresssmen like" Wallyweired " who professes that he doesn't trust President Barry's plan, are only holding back America in joining the rest of the world in getting affordable care for all.

    I want Wally's health plan.

  3. Avatar Art McBride says:

    And so Richard Douse you have cut to the heart of the matter. Why should Sue and Jenny not have the opportunity for affordable health care? It might be because it is more important to " protect huge health insurance conglomerates from competition". To ensure that they continue to make lagre profits and pay large executive salaries and bonuses while denying the care people are paying for. The lobbyists that the insurance companies pay with our premiums certainly say that, And so do the members of congress they buy. But another key ingredient in this mix are the ideologues who seem to believe that Sue and Jenny do not deserve an affordable health insurance option. The "if you can't earn it you don't deserve it – everybody for him or her self crowd". The people who are so afraid that someone might benefit from an affordable option while they continue to pay ever increasing premiums that they will forgo the benefit to themselves rather than see that happen. Particularly if it is a government option. You might wonder why someone would be so adamantly opposed to improving the general good. Opposed to helping their neighbors, friends and family. Opposed to having the government that is supposed to work for them – work for them. I have no answer for that but for some reason these people, the most vocal of whom claim to be "rightwing conservative patriots", don't want Sue or Jenny or anyone else to have health care if it is nof from one of those health insurance conglomerates. Maybe it is just that their health care decider of choice is some functionary in the bowls of a comglomerate rather than their doctor.

    We can only hope that there are enough actual representatives of the people in the House and Senate who are ethical enough not to be swayed by bribes in the form of campaign contributions and moral enough not to be directed by a ridgid ideology who will stand up for Sue and Jenny and help them have an affordable health insurance option.

    Thanks for writing about Sue and Jenny. Let us hope that neither one of them has a illness or accident for at least the next 4 years when the reform is scheduled to start – if there is one.

  4. Avatar Ken says:

    Here is another example of what is wrong with the current health care system. Our 24 year old daughter is on a 60 day break between a year in the Americore program and going back to school. The stipend at Americore is poverty level, no insurance is offered and at that level of income no one could afford private insurance.

    She developed some heath problems and went to the community clinic urgent care. She was treated twice then blood work revealed a thyroid issue. She was told to see a GP, 3 month wait for an appointment. We asked our family doctor to see her and agreed to pay for the service in cash. Our Dr. referred her to a specialist, the only one in town. When she called for an appointment she was asked if she had insurance. She told them no, her parents would be paying cash for the appointment. We don't accept cash was the reponse, we will not see uninsured patients. Later they said that they would see her at the community health center where the specialist works a day or two a month, but you can imagine the time wait. We went back to our GP, who rationally would accept our cash, and he has been trying to help her.

    What bothers me the most is that the loudest complainers about any government run health care are on medicare.

    My wife and I are in our 50's, I have been self employed for over 30 years. We have been uninsured, under insured and over insured (when she had a part time county job) Almost everyone in their late 50's and early 60's count the days until they can get on medicare. Yet there is this outcry that the government cannot run a health care system.

    We trust the government with the world's largest arsenal of atomic weapons, but we don't trust them to help with health care. Go figure.

  5. Avatar offgridguy says:

    I wonder if Republicans in Congress have any idea how many people within their own party could not afford the public option if there was one. It would not be free. It would still cost plenty, though not as much as private insurance. Some people, Republicans included, simply cannot afford health care. It's a choice of paying the rent and eating . . . or paying for health insurance. Some choice. Are you listening, Wally? Do you even care?

  6. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Right on people! Keep at 'em. Yes, we can!

  7. Avatar Jenny aka Angela&#0 says:

    Dear Dad, Thanks – I like it. Love You, Jen