While chatting with my mom yesterday, she said there were some questions as to how much longer the factory that employs her would stay open. Rumors of the factory closing have been swirling around for years. The new owners are sending lines to Mexico, but this has been a slow process, so people have adjusted to the fact that the jobs are gradually moving elsewhere. Some people have been laid off, but my mom and step-dad have so much seniority (over 30 years each) that being laid off is not a pressing concern for them. Their hope is that the factory will stay in business at least two more years, when both will be 62. If it stays open until they’re 65, that’d be even better.
As she told me about the latest rumors and said things didn’t look good, I added up her living expenses in my head. The two of them live very modestly. They are great savers and their house is paid off. In my opinion, the house being paid off makes a huge difference as to how well someone can adjust to losing their job. It would be a great relief not to have to worry about losing the house. When I told her this she agreed and said “our biggest problem with losing the job is losing the health insurance. That would be bad.” Oh, yeah. Health insurance.
This would be particularly bad for them because mom is in remission from breast and ovarian cancer. If they lost their jobs, they wouldn’t have the prescription card to buy my step-dad’s medicine, and they wouldn’t be able to afford the premiums of health insurance policies. Also, insurance companies may not accept her since she has preexisting conditions. If they lost their jobs this year, it would be five years before they’d qualify for medicare. I told her that if the worst were to happen (and we’re hoping it doesn’t), we’d have to look into minimum wage jobs with companies that offer health insurance for its employees, like Starbucks. She joked that she’d be lucky to get a job greeting people at Walmart.
When we hung up the phone, I became very angry. This is the reason we need universal health care. It pisses me off when people make self-righteous and snide comments about a working person’s taxes being siphoned away for welfare recipients. My parents have worked their asses off for 30 some years (lately they’ve been working six days a week and getting to work as early as 4am). If they need some assistance, they’ve damned well earn it (but they’d be the last to ask for it). There should be some sort of transitional health care program for people between jobs. Last night, I read the health care platforms of Obama and McCain. Both make the assumption that the insured is receiving insurance through the employer. I’m not sure what their solution is for those who have found themselves without jobs. Perhaps this detail is covered, but I missed it. All I know is the health care system in this country is screwing a lot of people–particularly the working class. My father became a statistic for the uninsured. He didn’t have insurance, and didn’t go for checkups, and was diagnosed with late stage colon cancer when he was 56 (he was a Vietnam Vet too–one would think his health care would be complimentary thanks to his service). On the flip side, my mother has had insurance, has received regular checkups, and is in remission from two different cancers and is doing very well. There has to be some sort of help for the working class when they find themselves on the brink of losing their jobs and insurance. Perhaps insurance should not be tied to employment.
In the words of John Lennon, a working class hero is something to be.