Part Five: My Father
A Man’s Fear for His Future in the Face of Healthcare Reform
By David Malaski with Amanda Malaski
All too often we see think pieces about rural America – how they feel, what they believe – written by coastal city dwellers. Sometimes these pieces even discuss rural Americans as the “rural problem,” as though they are just a monolithic nut to be cracked or an electoral puzzle to be solved and not equal Americans with their own lives and stories.
In this series, I will present progressive, rural Iowan lives and stories unfiltered, with as little of my own commentary as possible.
PVI: This week’s Rural Voices is a little different. This week, I am the rural Iowan. I want to share the fears of my father as he faces the potential loss of his access to healthcare. I hope you will forgive my voice being more present in this piece, but I have a lot invested in my father’s story.
My father isn’t an Iowan, yet. He was born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota. He overcame a difficult and painful childhood to become a loving father and wonderful provider for his family.
I have watched my father do what was right his entire life. His last job before retirement was warehouse point man and lead sorter, using his knowledge of antiques to help a thrift store raise money for homeless men in his community. He went to bat for those men countless times when he saw they were being treated unjustly. He loved his work and the difference he made in those men’s lives, and the difference they made in his in turn.
It is incredibly painful to watch my parents have to worry about affording health insurance and their financial stability because of it. They have earned better than that. They are hard working people who raised a hard working child. They did everything they were supposed to. I cannot even begin to express what a betrayal it is, as a child, to watch your parents fear for their future in the years that should be the most relaxing for them – and to have that fear driven by the very government that is supposed to protect and care for them in their senior years.
My parents are moving to rural Iowa within a few months. I am their only child, and they want to be closer to me and my husband (and our dogs and cat, even if they don’t admit it.) I am incredibly thankful that they will be closer to me, so I can be of greater help if health care falls apart.
My father’s story is not unique. There are millions of Americans facing a similar crisis. This is only one story. But, it is a story that hits incredibly close to home.
PVI: Can you describe your health issues?
David: I have Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol, early kidney damage, anxiety, and heart disease. I’ve had multiple surgeries for kidney stones, and cardioversion to treat my Atrial flutter.
PVI: How much have your treatments cost over the past few years, even with insurance?
David: The medications, clinic visits and labs average about $150 per month. That’s with insurance and using a pharmacy that provides cheap refills on generic medications. I have postponed getting glucose testing supplies because of the cost, even with insurance. Last year I had to have surgery, and we had to apply for financial aid from the hospital to help pay for what we owed after insurance.
PVI: How much would it have cost you without insurance?
David: Over the past 10 years, it’s been well over $100,000 before insurance. Insurance pays about 80% after the deductible is reached, so if you do the math, you can see that without insurance, paying for health care and medications would be impossible. However, it goes much deeper than that. It is not only the cost, but also the delaying of treatment. I would have tried to go without until it was absolutely necessary. It’s more of a financial consideration than a good health choice.
PVI: My father receives $13,000 a year from Social Security. Without insurance, his medical costs would have been at least $10,000 if the costs had been split evenly. However, several surgeries means those costs weren’t spread evenly and he would have faced impossible bills.
PVI: Does the uncertainty of healthcare have any effect on your day to day life?
David: Yes. I suffer from anxiety and recently had to have my medication increased. Having just retired, I’m waiting to see if I’ll have professionals to keep me healthy or if I’ll have to depend on home remedies. Also, my wife is not as sure about our future as she was, and isn’t as confident about retirement as she was.
PVI: How do you feel about the government? Has that changed since the healthcare debate started?
David: I was shocked to truly see the face of the Republican Party, and the silence from the Democratic party. The lack of humanity makes me feel vulnerable and targeted. I’ve worked all my life and contributed to society. I’ve done what I should. Why am I being targeted?
If you know someone who has a powerful rural voice, or you have one yourself, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.