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I'm a newspaper reporter. Okay, I'm supposed to be unbiased. I am, when I write. But some stories make it hard.

I go see this guy today. 42 years old. He's an electrical engineer. Did everything right. Married a local woman 10 years ago. She decides a couple years later to quit her job and go to nursing school. Five years ago he's on a job in Detroit, working in robotics. He gets a call. She's got an inoperable brain tumor. He quits his traveling job, gets a job close to home, creating green energy from trapped gas form landfills. It pays well, good benefits.

He cares for her. They give her five years to live. She's already beat it by one year, but the surgery they did try to remove the tumor left her blind in one eye, with a permanent case of shingles, and totally disabled.

Dec. 23, his neck is sore. He reaches up, finds a hard, painless mass. That's not good, he knows. The doctor agrees. It's Stage 4A squamous cell cancer. I just got back from his bed side at the hospital.

His job compassionately fired him. Why? Because if wasn't working at least part time, he would lose his insurance. Better jobless than insurance-less. Now he qualifies for COBRA. Thanks to Obama, blessings on his family to the 1000th generation, he can get COBRA with a substantial discount, at least for a while.

But his insurance doesn't cover everything. For example, you can't eat when you are getting radiation for throat cancer. So he has a feeding tube. Guess what? Insurance won't pay for the liquid food. He's letting go of the car that isn't paid off, dropping full coverage on the car that is, letting go of the cell phones. His wife and he live in a duplex and thanks to the landlords, a similar blessing upon them, he doesn't have to worry about paying the rent. (By the way, they are conservative people. Just goes to show, here in the real world, we CAN get along.)

But he's wondering who will care for his wife when he gets home. His son's serving in Iraq, can't help. He said to me, "I'd better be employable or dead in six months."

He almost let himself die, to avoid becoming a burden on the wife he planned to care for until her death, but this cancer strangles you, and he was afraid.

Jesus H. Christ.

How many more years? How many more years until his insurance would have to cover him, until the liquid food was covered, until home health care is covered until he no longer needs it?

I am usually a much more lyrical writer. I came here to shriek it out before I sat down to hammer out my dispassionate piece about his situation. The last time I did a piece like this, I got letters to the editor. You would think they expressed compassion, horror, outrage. No. They accused me of flogging a tragic story to support health care reform.

So let it be known. I support health care reform. And I don't have to make up shit. There are stories like this all over my valley.

I know why people want single payer. It's great. This is America. We won't get it. A good Dem sat by me the other day. He said it was worth holding out for single payer.

I disagree. I want what we can likely get. Something to fix the situation of the 42-year-old guy who did everything right and lost everything anyway whose hospital bed I just left. Something that makes it so when you lose your job, you don't lose your insurance. When you get too sick to work, you don't lose everything. God, I'm mad.


Originally posted to SeattleProgressive on Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 09:04 PM PST.

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