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Healthcare works just fine the way it is. Is that what YOU think? Harry and Louise, then and now.

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Remember Harry and Louise? They were the attractive couple who said they didn't want Clinton tinkering with healthcare. But that was then, when they were an active "39"-and-counting. Then Harry and Louise appeared youngish and vibrant, at the top of their game. Donning their all-American middle class persona, they sat at their kitchen table chatting about the perils of healthcare reform. America listened. And President Clinton's healthcare plan died a quick and painful death. "They choose, we lose," Louise said. In another clip, Harry's basketball buddy worries that his health insurance increased from $1200 to $3200 a year. [Don't I wish.]

Fast forward a few years and take a look at Harry and Louise in this 2008 clip . In light of ever increasing health care costs and increasing numbers of people without health insurance coverage, Louise laments, "Whoever the next president is, healthcare should be at the top of the agenda. Bring everyone to the table."

What changed their minds? The answer is simple. . . Life. . . One moment you're an up-and-comer. The next maybe you can't jog as fast . . . or jog at all. Or worse, you're stretched out in some frigid hospital room tethered by a tangle of tubes poked in your veins. It ain't purdy. But it is real. Accidents are random. Genetics are not. A few tough knocks either way and you join Harry and Louise, wised up by the ever louder echoes of the clanging clock and the clarity of hindsight.

So what did happen, really? Here's the story behind the story mirroring the life experience of a growing number of Americans today forced to choose between life and living, literally between putting food on the table and purchasing prescribed medicine. Medicine essential for reducing their risk of heart attack, broken bones, stroke. The list continues.

Unfortunately, today Harry and Louise are guaranteed a hefty reduction in income as they approach layoffs and retirement. When Harry does retire he'll be looking at a social security income of approximately $2,200 per month. While Louise's will be about $2,000. When you tally up their income against the $900 a month real cost of their necessary prescription drugs, they're left with $3,000 a month for health insurance ($400 a month for Louise, Harry's is less), medical bills, auto insurance, homeowner's insurance, flood insurance, life insurance. . .

Harry and Louise wonder how they wound up in this dreadful situation. After all, they're good people. They never hurt anybody. But here's the rest of their story.


Harry's not quite so fit anymore. He needs a little help in the bedroom department so he takes Viagra. That $14 pop-a-pill one or two times a week adds up.   Harry has also been diagnosed with an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH). For this he takes Flomax ($119.67 per month) and Vesicare ($144.56 per month).

More importantly, Harry developed more serious health issues. Shortly after filming the anti-Clinton ad, Harry was diagnosed with coronary artery disease. It was so sudden. One day he was playing basketball. The next day he was in the hospital. A day later his cardiologist was reaming out Harry's three clogged arteries. At the time, Harry was a young-sort-of guy. And he felt quite fit, really. This shouldn't have happened to him. But it did.

Harry's arteries will probably clog up again and he remains at risk for a heart attack. Even so Harry's chances of remaining "healthy" are good as long as he's careful to watch his diet, get lots of exercise and take his medicine: Tricor for triglycerides ($49.04 per month), Metoprolol to help prevent heart ($18.97 per month) and Lescol XL to lower his cholesterol ($115.95 per month).

Harry's monthly expenses for prescribed medicine alone total $550 per month.

If Harry loses his job, he's eligible for Cobra. But after his Cobra insurance runs out, he'll have a tough time finding insurance that doesn't include a preexisting condition clause. In other words, Harry will not be insured the next time his arteries clog up and he will face medical bills exceeding $50,000 for one day in the hospital, one procedure. If and when Harry needs heart bypass surgery, he and Louise will be ruined financially.


Louise no longer suffers hot flashes but she continues her hormone replacement therapy. It's a quality of life issue for her and as long as she can afford the cost, her gynecologist recommends it.   Harry agrees. He benefits as well. Prometrium and Estratest ($58.14 and $43.76 per month).

Although Louise put on a few pounds in the past several years, she remains mindful of her diet. Still her cholesterol levels are higher than normal so her general practitioner insists she stay on cholesterol lowering statins. Simvastatin ($27.99 per month).

Louise suffers from arthritis and takes Mobic for the pain ($123.40). Also, as with many women of her generation, her bones are thinning. Her once a month dose of Boniva helps stem the onset of osteoporosis ($306.59 for 3 tablets, one per month).

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Author of A MARGIN OF ERROR: BALLOTS OF STRAW, featured in "Small Press Bookwatch" - Politics is a tough career, with more knives in (more...)

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