Listening to Seniors and the Disabled

We are watching the Rhode Island Senate race closely here at Kmareka. One thing that I notice, and I’ve commented on it before, is that Whitehouse is doing the better job of listening to real people when it comes to health care and the new prescription drug plan. Here is the latest entry from his blog:

After every community dinner we’ve held, I’ve come away with many different feelings. I’m always happy to have met so many Rhode Islanders, and excited to have heard their stories and their thoughts. But last night, after our community dinner at the Portuguese Social Club in Pawtucket, I also felt angry – because nearly every story I heard came from good people, who have worked hard and paid their dues, but today are struggling with the high cost of health care and its impact on their lives.

I was honored to have Olavo Amado with us last night. Olavo is a small business owner and veteran who gave 24 years of service to our country in the armed services, and he told us that though he’d always had health coverage as a soldier, today he can’t afford to buy health insurance for his business. In the greatest country in the world, it’s shameful that something so critical as health care is unaffordable for hard-working people like him.

Others had similar stories. I heard from people who are disabled, who are themselves veterans, or who just have a hard time getting by – who can’t afford the health care they need.

I left last night frustrated and angry – but with an even stronger commitment to roll up my sleeves and get to work for the hard-working men and women of Pawtucket. The Republicans in Congress and the Bush administration might not be listening to them. But I am, and I’ll fight to make sure their voices are heard.

For the view from another leading candidate, you can read through Laffey’s powerpoint presentation, “The High Cost of Prescription Drugs.” Like Whitehouse, Laffey supports a plan for Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. His plan is less specific about what to do with the current Medicare plan problems. He also recommends doing away with “me too” drugs and increasing regulatory powers for the FDA so that drug companies have to give more information about drug side effects in their advertisements.

Matt Brown’s campaign is focusing on the Iraq war right now. That’s another extremely important issue. Brown’s focus, though, seems to be primarily on having a debate about the issue, which sends the message to me that he is more concerned about debating his primary opponent than he is about addressing the concrete issues of the people of Rhode Island.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to say here and now that I attended a Whitehouse fundraiser in September of 2005. I’m not a big fundraiser attendee, but the invitation was offered to me free of charge, and I thought it would be interesting to meet Sheldon Whitehouse, which it was. In this way, I feel that I attended more as a member of “the press,” if blogs can now be included in “the press.”

I should also say that as a clinical social worker, my bias is probably going to be toward a candidate who is actively listening to real people and sharing these stories with the public. That strategy is most closely aligned with the way social work functions to address a problem.

But this blog welcomes people from all political perspectives. We are a liberal blog, yes, but we are here to help the public gain relevant information about the candidates and make informed decisions. I will leave the political advocating for one candidate or another to those who wish to comment.

5 thoughts on “Listening to Seniors and the Disabled

  1. Kiersten-
    I appreciate your genuine concern for the real people. I have the same concerns being a middle-class working mother. However, I’m not as trusting as you are. I have a real problem with any millionaire who tells me they understand my problems. How can someone champion a cause they’ve never actually experienced themselves? When the health and welfare of my family hinges on one job with health insurance, I get skeptical that our representatives in Washington are accomplishing what they need to. Our government is being bought by lobbyists without the best interests of the middle-class even represented. I want to know that the person representing me has actually experienced the same fears and challenges that I have.

  2. Real Mom, Thanks for your thoughts. I have a real problem with the fact that our only choices for viable candidates (Chafee, Laffey, Brown and Whitehouse) are all wealthy white males. Brown is the only one who is not a multimillionaire, but I understand he comes from a fairly wealthy family.

    What can we do but try to choose the best of the lot? Do you find any one of them more trustworthy than the rest? In this post here, I talk about a fantasy world where we could get our candidates to answer questions that would reveal their moral reasoning skills.

    Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing who to trust. I am inclined to trust the person who is willing to do the dirty work of listening to those who are suffering most.

  3. Nomi, I apologize. I have not counted Carl Sheeler out of this race and should have included some information on his positions on Medicare in this post. When I have a chance I will research Sheeler’s positions on this topic and post them.

  4. Okay, here’s what I could find by doing a few searches under “Carl Sheeler” and “Carl Sheeler Medicare”. These statements are both from the Sheeler for Senate website and cover his positions on elder issues and healthcare, although do not specifically address the recent medicare and medicaid changes that affect the elderly and disabled.

    Elder Issues
    In a few years, I’ll be eligible for AARP membership as most of the baby boomers (1946-1964) will have passed age 50. We’ll be joining a similar number of “matures” (1900-1945) many who have been veterans. As we live longer, we want quality of life and to remain engaged in our communities. This offers excellent opportunities for part-time and job-sharing of experienced persons who have no desire to retire, if we established local, state and federal programs to support this. It would relieve some of the strain on the social security system. However, we have to be serious about having a true opt-out, national healthcare program to replace Medicare and veteran-care. By phasing out Medicare withholdings and eliminating salary caps, this level of care would be available to all America’s elderly. (See Healthcare.)

    More than two out of three Americans want national healthcare. Examining just General Motors alone, 30,000 jobs were cut and more were shifted to Canada because of how high healthcare costs are a part of the financial equation of even large corporations. As a business owner, I pay for my family’s healthcare, which sets us back over $12,000 annually with no dental coverage. We have a shared responsibility to take care of ourselves, but the real costs of inadequate health coverage are often underrepresented. It’s like the choice between paying for a regular oil change or waiting until the engine is damaged. Clearly, the cost for the engine repair is much higher and has other costs such as lost time from work. Those are the same costs when a person who needs care does not receive it and eventually needs more expensive emergency care that will in one way or another be paid for by taxpayers or worse may lead to an unnecessary loss of life. The savings to many companies and the improved quality of life of our most at risk, the elderly and the young, make this a national priority. Shifting the burden from the states and more equitably spreading it among large businesses and taxpayers; especially, the most wealthy makes this a viable plan.

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