Can Bernie’s plan cover all like a blanket? This woman believes so 

  • Sara Davitt and her youngest son Lukas, 2, at the Bernie Sanders event at the Circle 9 Ranch in Epsom on Tuesday, September 3, 2019. Davitt's concern in the 2020 election is healthcare for her family. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Sara Davitt and sons Lukas, 2, and Caleb, 4, at the Bernie Sanders event at the Circle 9 Ranch in Epsom on Tuesday. Davitt’s main concern in the 2020 election is health care for her family. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Sara Davitt and her sons Lukas, 2, and Caleb, 4, at the Bernie Sanders event at the Circle 9 Ranch in Epsom on Tuesday. Davitt’s main concern in the 2020 election is better health care for her family. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to the crowd at the Circle 9 Ranch in Epsom on Tuesday.

Published: 9/3/2019 6:04:12 PM

Sara Davitt left her husband behind in Bakersfield, Calif.

She moved here with her two young sons – Caleb, 4, and Lukas, 2 – back to her parents’ home in Deerfield, seeking a better life.

The start of a new chapter for this young mother, caused by divorce?

Nope. This is about health care and a broken system that has had a direct effect on Davitt’s sons. Their needs – Caleb was born with a clubbed foot, Lukas suffers from hearing loss – were not met. Not without paying a steep price.

So Davitt went to the Circle 9 Ranch Campground for Breakfast with Bernie. She wanted the Democratic candidate for president to see her boys, know what they’ve endured, hear what she had to say, the part about a family separated and an insurance plan with the smallest fine print imaginable.

Meanwhile, Davitt’s husband, Abdiel Ortiz, is still working as a manager of a tire and auto shop out west. Why? So his wife can keep her health insurance, of course, which hasn’t been all that helpful to begin with. But it’s better than nothing.

Davitt, standing, took the microphone and had her say, her youngest son wrapped in her arms.

“This is my son, Lukas,” she told Sanders. “We found out he was hard of hearing at the beginning of May, and because we don’t have a nationalized health care system, my husband is currently living and working in California, while we have moved in with my parents in New Hampshire so we can pursue whatever medical treatment he needs for his ears.”

Sanders reached for a familiar response, saying high deductibles mean potential patients “can’t go to the doctor when they should.”

He continued, mentioning that in America, greed comes before health.

“The health care industry made $100 billion in profits,” Sanders said.

Davitt knows about the costs. Once she wanted a brace for Caleb’s foot. No problem, she was told. Got $2,000?

She still needs help for Lukas, whose hearing is limited and in fact may be totally gone. Need a hearing aid or cochlear implants? Sorry, your boy’s problem is not life-threatening. Pay up.

That’s why she’s looking to Sanders for help. She voted for him in the 2016 primary, after working for the Obama campaign. An independent, she considered voting for John McCain in 2008 and worked for his campaign as well. She said her father, whom she lives with now in Deerfield, gave her good advice.

“The best way to choose, my dad always said, is to visit the candidates, work for the campaigns, see how they organize themselves,” Davitt told me before Sanders was introduced. “See what kind of people they are, and that helped me when I was trying to choose between Obama and McCain. Honestly, Obama was so efficient and so organized, it was insane. McCain’s train had just lost steam.”

Sanders stood in front of the crowd, wearing that blue sports coat we’ve come to know, with an open-collared shirt and white hair with a mind of its own.

Like McCain in 2008, he’s back in our state for another try, ahead of the first-in-the-nation primary, eyeing the White House, telling voters that, at age 77 (78 on Sept. 8), he’s not too old to lead the country.

His biggest selling point to many is health care, the comfortable and soothing feeling that no matter how sick you get, you’re covered with a single-payer healthcare system in which a single government-run plan provides insurance coverage to all Americans.

Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris have followed suit in their bids for the presidency, co-sponsoring Sanders’s idea, although Harris has said that in her plan private insurance could still play a role in covering people.

Davitt is considering both those candidates and plans on attending their events in the future as well.

But Tuesday, it was Sanders’s time to convince voters that they had gotten it wrong the last time, when Hillary Clinton won the nomination. Since then, Davitt’s problems haven’t gone anywhere.

Start with Caleb. Born with a clubbed foot, he needed a brace to reach some semblance of normalcy. Davitt was working full-time and both she and her husband each had their own plans.

One plan had a deductible of $2,500, which made Davitt laugh as we sat together. The other plan meant an $800 bill, more affordable but a steep price for a young couple with two small children.

Later, another brace was needed to help move the process along, which cost $2,000. Thankfully, mom was an occupational therapist. She chose to use her skills, and save money.

“We didn’t do it because we couldn’t afford it,” Davitt said. “We stretched him and we did range of motion. I looked at his foot and I looked at my husband and I was like, ‘I’ll just monitor it,’ and it was looking really good. I thought if we can get away with not doing the brace, let’s do that.”

It worked. Caleb’s left foot is pointing straight, as it should be.

And then there’s Lukas, another example that illustrates the strain and stress caused by America’s healthcare system. Lukas can’t hear well, but his parents aren’t sure how deep this problem goes, since an affordable and reasonable medical plan has remained out of reach.

“We don’t know if he’s completely deaf,” Davitt said. “He doesn’t hear his name.”

Lukas might need implants, which means an upcoming fight to secure payment from her husband’s insurance company. Confusion and costs rule this couple’s life, with PPOs and HMOs and paperwork and exact coding making the process harder than it should be.

Elsewhere, in a particularly damning indictment of the system, Davitt said that in California she was referred to doctors who were not pediatricians, moving from office to office, being told she needed to see someone else, making appointment after appointment, all with an unknown price tag hovering over her head. Why won’t insurance cover equipment needed to help Lukas hear?

“They sent me to an ear, nose and throat specialist,” Davitt told me. “I took a day off from work, went there for a whole day and they told me I needed to see an audiologist.

“There are a lot of problems, a lot of bureaucracy. I don’t know if having nationalized health care would fix all the problems, but it would certainly help.”

Sanders heard from others in the audience. The woman who refused a medical test because her insurance didn’t cover it.

“I had to pay for it or just not get it,” the woman told Sanders, “and for me, this is why I am in support of Medicare for all. Everyone should have health care.”

“Is Linda the only person in the room who has had a health care issue?” Sanders then asked. “Who else wants to talk about it?”

A man stood and said he and his wife, a disabled veteran, had health insurance, yet their coverage failed to pay in full the medication their son needed for mild autism. They had to settle for a 10-day supply.

Davitt wants a new system in place. She needs help. Her kids need help. Sanders says he’s the right man for the job.

While addressing the crowd, Sanders was thrown off balance when Lukas made sounds that a 2-year-old child with a hearing problem makes. “If we could keep that down a little bit,” Sanders said, no smile to be found. “Okay, thanks.”

Davitt lost her balance as well by Sanders’s remarks. She got some one-on-one time with him later, though, and felt better about the man she might vote for.

“I let him know about Lukas and why he screamed,” Davitt said later. “It threw me off too, but he was nice about it.”

Grumpy or nice, it’s Sanders’s policy that voters care about. Skeptics say there’s no money to pay for a plan such as the one Sanders and other Democratic candidates are presenting.

Not so, Davitt said.

“I think we absolutely have the money,” Davitt told me. “I mean, we have the money to pay to build a wall, then we have the money to pay for a national health care system if everyone pays into it.

“Right now, I think it’s corrupt all around.”




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