Monday, January 21, 2008
Barely making it but still undecided
By A. Chris Gajilan
Medical News Senior Producer
"I'm ashamed I have to go to the emergency room when I get sick, but there's no way I could afford health insurance…just no way. I'm barely making ends meet."
I met 35-year-old single mother and full-time waitress Troy McCarty on the campaign trail last week. She was our waitress as anchor John Roberts and chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta went live on CNN's "American Morning" from the Lizard's Thicket restaurant in Columbia, South Carolina.
I'm covering my third presidential election at CNN. I have to say that I've always loved the campaign trail. I feared being a medical producer would keep me away from the road, but no such thing. This election is blurring more than party lines. Put quite simply, medical has become political.
But sometimes, it's far too easy to get distracted by live shots, sound bites and stump speeches. Meeting Troy reminded me of one of the greatest things about the campaign trail: actually listening to people's stories.
Troy has lived in South Carolina for two years. Troy takes home between $800 and $1,000 a month from her job at the restaurant. Her expenses for the month total in the neighborhood of $1,200 per month. She decided not to contribute to her employer-sponsored health insurance because she couldn't afford it. About half of the waitresses pay into a plan that costs between $100 and $200 every week. What's worse is that Troy suffers from crippling migraines. When they strike, she turns to the emergency room where one visit ends up costing her more than $1,900. She ends up working out a payment plan for each bill. It doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that she's having a rough time.
Troy is just one of the 45 million uninsured people who are figuring out how to live without insurance. She's still an undecided voter, but she's hoping for a candidate who can give her some real solutions. Tonight, CNN will be airing a political debate with the Democratic presidential hopefuls live from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I can't wait to see whether any of them have anything to offer Troy or the millions of other people who are barely making ends meet.
What do you want to hear from the candidates when it comes to health care?
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