My Turn: Dear Mr. President . . .
President Obama shakes the hand of a supporter after giving a speech about American energy and energy independence at Nashua Community College in Nashua, NH; Thursday, March 1, 2012. The President called for the end of some $4 billion dollars of annual subsidies to the oil and gas companies. (Brad Vest/ Monitor Staff)
Ever since President Obama took office, his efforts to right the economy through government intervention and to overhaul the nation’s health care system have been subject to furious political spin from all sides. What effect has all that government action actually had? One way to find out is to ask a struggling family member. You may be shocked to learn how much the government has stabilized a life. That’s what I heard from my sister-in-law recently. In fact, she’s so grateful, she wrote the following letter to the president:
I am writing you to let you know how your tenure as president has affected me personally in the last 41/2 years.
In May of 2009, I experienced a life-changing event. My dear husband of 33 years passed away unexpectedly. He had a subdural hematoma and required brain surgery, and he was in a coma for 13 days, in the hospital’s critical care unit. He was covered under my company-sponsored insurance plan. Thank goodness we had good insurance, or it would have been devastating financially for me.
Eight months later, on Feb. 5, 2010, I was informed that my job as a full-time human resources assistant for a major department store was being eliminated. I had worked for this company for 35 years. I gave my all to my job for all those years, and it was lost overnight. Literally, I was told on Thursday, and my last day was Friday!
I found myself in the unemployment line. I never thought that I would be receiving unemployment. I applied for jobs all over the city. There were plenty of part-time jobs, but nothing for a 57-year-old who needed benefits. I took a part-time position and eked out a living on unemployment and a minimum-wage job.
I signed up for COBRA benefits which had been reduced to a rate that I could afford. The reduced rate was in effect for 15 of the 18 months of eligibility. The last three months saw my COBRA benefit rate triple.
I also had to purchase a health insurance plan after COBRA ran out.
I was able to get only minimal coverage at a high cost. My out-of-pocket expense for my mammogram was $500, and my physical was $900.
Because my unemployment benefits were extended, I was able to hang on until I turned 60. At that time, I was able to collect my husband’s monthly Social Security benefit. I also receive two small pensions, so life is a little easier now. I am not collecting anything from my 401K at this time because it lost half of its value in 2008. By the time of my job loss, it hadn’t regained all of its value. I am trying to let it gain a little more before I draw on it.
I am now 61 and not eligible for Medicare until I turn 66. I just applied for health care coverage through the Affordable Health Care Act. On March 1, I will be covered by a good plan that will cover physicals and tests (some 100 percent). I will be paying $80 less than I am paying now. What a relief it is to know that I have health coverage!
In conclusion, I want to thank you for:
1. Reducing COBRA rates
2. Extending unemployment benefits
3. Making affordable health care available
You never know how your life can change so drastically in such a short time. Thank you for considering people like me!
Mary Ann Fulton
(Arnie Arnesen lives in Concord.)