January 22nd, 2008
06:25 PM ET
10 years ago

Real People, Real Issues: The plight of the uninsured

ABOARD THE ELECTION EXPRESS, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (CNN) - Gene Hall didn’t watch Monday night’s Democratic presidential debate. The 46-year-old father of four was working – delivering pizzas until late into the night.

It was Hall’s second shift of the day. Earlier, he was behind the wheel of his Beach Boy taxi. Hall told me he has no insurance - when one of his children needs to go to the doctor, he pays out of his own pocket.

“If I was to get sick for two or three days, I am in trouble,” he said.

The plight of the uninsured is a central theme in this year’s presidential race. But unlike many people who are calling for a universal health care plan, Hall doesn’t think that is the answer.

“Somebody is going to have to pay for it,” said Hall, who added he thinks it would mean an increase in taxes. A tax increase is a hit to the wallet that Hall cannot afford.

Hall said that before our conversation, he had been talking to his wife about how to pay this month’s bills. What remained would go to groceries, he said.

Hall said he is not supporting any particular candidate, and does not even identify himself with a particular political party. One thing is for certain, Hall is no fan of Hillary Clinton.

“She just seems wishy-washy,” he said. “I think she tells people what she wants they want to hear.”

As for Obama, Hall seems intrigued, but added he is concerned about his religion. Obama, a Christian, has been forced to bat down erroneous rumors that he is a Muslim and was educated in a radical madrassa.

“His religion scares me,” Hall said. “They say he is a Christian.”

When I tell him that he is in fact a Christian, Hall seems a bit relieved. But if Hall still thinks that Obama is a radical Muslim, surely other voters must as well. Unfortunately for Obama, the madrassa rumor still lives on. As for John Edwards, a South Carolina son, Hall can’t even recall his name.

Perhaps Tuesday night that will all change. Hall taped the debate that was sponsored by CNN and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. He is going to give the candidates another look - his vote is up for grabs.

What is he looking for in a candidate?

“Somebody that is going to look out for us,” he said.

And he hasn’t ruled out voting for a Republican in November.

- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston

soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. helen

    I agree with Bill. I don't care if Hillary Clinton does say she's going to cover all Americans with health care. What a waste of money. Alot of the people she will spend millions on, won't take advantage of the care and continue to live unhealthy lives by choice. Come on, how many brains does it take to 1. use a contraceptive if you don't want to get pregnant, 2. stop smoking if you want to reduce your chances of lung cancer, 2. stop eating crappy food (this is not a money issue, but a choice issue....beans, greens and whole grain rice aren't nearly so expensive as cheeseburgers and fries). No, I am not particularly interested in taking care of people who refuse to discipline their eating, smoking or drinking habits because they feel sorry for themselves or simply don't want to learn how to be healthier. I do belive in Obama's plan because we all know that children can't choose. And a child who is seen regularly by a Dr. has a much better chance of becoming a healthy adult than one who hasn't . Also, we know that folks will do things for their kids that they ignore for themselves. Obama's plan has a much greater possibility of success....without the dramatic expense that Hillary's has.

    January 22, 2008 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  2. aware

    Hillary 08 She is the most capable and most aware candidate available. Obama is a loser!

    January 22, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  3. James springfield mo

    I think bill that everybody that does not have health insurance just want a early grave right let us just call it as it is,i don't have health insurance my employer is to small i work and have hep-c if i change employers it will be two years for the insurance co will treat my liver.

    January 22, 2008 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  4. June (California Voter)

    I like what Hillary says she will make healthcare affordable. I already voted for her by mail.
    But I may be willing to vote for Obama in November once I know more about him.

    January 22, 2008 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  5. Ivan, Chicago, Illinois

    The one thing that all politicans care about, is getting elected to office and once in office staying in office.
    When enough Americans who VOTE don't have health coverage, then you will see the mad dash by politicans to provide health care coverage for every American.
    Why do you think the NRA is so strong, because their members vote.
    Why do you think the poor get the shaft, because they don't vote.
    Politicans respond to those that vote, and give lip service to those that don't.

    January 23, 2008 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  6. Steve, Lyons, CO

    If the Bushies can spend $1.5 TRILLION dollars on an illegal, lost and unnecessary war, universal health insurance money can be spent as well.

    Instead of giving up on universal health care, just end the Iraq debacle and suddenly this country is prosperous again.

    Without the government's help, we have to depend on health insurance companies to help out with the current exorbitant premiums.

    Fat chance of that.

    January 23, 2008 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  7. Claudia

    Are there others out there who feel CNN posts more favorable stories about Obama than any other candidate? Can we at least have some shred of journalistic objectivity here?!

    January 23, 2008 12:56 am at 12:56 am |
  8. Tom

    Even if there was no war in Iraq the facts of the matter remain that:

    "[T]he powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction."
    - James Madison, Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention [June 6, 1788]

    These aren't the the words of some random madman but the man primarily responsible for penning our Constitution. If anyone should be dealing with healthcare it should be the states who understand the issues in regards to healthcare in their state far better then the lofty cronies residing in Washington. Not to mention that healthcare in it's entirety is a state issue except for possibly issues in which actual crimes are committed.

    Healthcare is in no way a right unless an individual state feels it is. If the Democrats want to change that I suggest they do it by the appropriate channels and ammend the Constitution instead of constantly trying to buy up the votes of those who either can't afford healthcare (which has to be truly questioned since cable telivision and other non-essential items are readily found in the homes of those who claim to be poor) or are unwilling to put in the extra work to get it.

    January 23, 2008 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  9. mark

    ZH, well said. I never find anything Hillary says to be true and should be accountable to her past, plain and simple. If Obama doesn't get a nod then I have an option to punish Hillary by voting republican!

    January 23, 2008 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  10. Peter

    I personally think Hillary brought fights in south carolina so that America will think black people voted for Obama for no good reasons just fluff. Well, the whole America is going downhill from it's economy to its morals. I really don't care what the clintons say but they have the darkest past!

    January 23, 2008 02:04 am at 2:04 am |
  11. Working MAMA in the Northwest

    Values, Insurance, the economy, education – those are my issues.
    I have yet to see a 'plan' that Obama has put out for either of these – I am black and educated with several degrees – Hilary is 'wishy-washy' – voting to 'keep' the war in Iraq – Everyone, be informed – educate yourselves – A news clip or reel is not enough – Listen to the messages the candidates are putting forth –
    Having Bill Clinton as a front runner for Hillary gives me goosebumps in a bad way – Could hurt her campaign – But this is how me and hubby are looking at this:
    The republican party is 'hoping' that Barack wins the nomination – Why?
    Because they know that America is thinking, "Do I want a black man for president?" Americans and this American are not that progressive just yet.
    Then when Americans get to the polls in November – they are gonna have two choices – A black man or a white man – We see it that folks will abandon their party affiliation and vote behind that curtain their skin color – bottom line –
    Another 4 years of pure hell and empy checking accounts, Ladies and gentlemen.
    THanks for the opp to vent.

    January 23, 2008 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
  12. Horace Gaims

    I hope that the next president will get some coaching from Harry Potter and his friends at Hogwarts on straightening out the mess left by GW Bush, Inc.

    January 23, 2008 04:23 am at 4:23 am |
  13. Coach Thumper

    The painfully obvious ignorance of this story's subject – Mr. Hall – proves two things.

    One, the writer was either lazy or on tight deadline.

    Two, a man who doesn't recall a former Vice Presidential candidate, who drives cab and pizza and yet would STILL consider voting Republican probably needs help untying his own shoes before he's even considered to represent our electorate.

    Give me a friggin' break!

    January 23, 2008 05:03 am at 5:03 am |
  14. John

    How longer this thing drags on how more I get disappointed with CNN, seems like you guys are endorsing Obama! I have nothing against both candidates but please keep it a bit fair! I do would like to remind people of the good 8 years before the latest Bush admin. Add the good health care plan and we all are going to benefit the next 8 years.

    January 23, 2008 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  15. charlotte

    Health care is not relative to me because I have it at a reasonable rate. The cost / co-pays continue to rise, and that does concern me. Lawsuits are one of the biggest expenses of the medical field. The problem, in my humble opinion, is how to hold the profession accountable without mega-million dollar law suits. Ask any Doctor what is the most costly insurance they pay, it is mal-practice. So, perhaps a medical mediator would be better. The big winners in all of this, are the insurance companies. A majority of doctors, are not going to cut off the wrong foot, yet they pay for those that do. The profits of insurance companies, need to be investigated. How much profit should we pay for? Make them accountable, they have the power to approve or deny a claim. The latter more often then not. The doctors take valuable time requesting approval for test and surgerys. Doctors may request un-necessary test to insure they don't get sued for mal-practice. My daughter works for a cardioglist in pre-authorization. Submit a request with one word/code wrong it gets denied, re-submit,re-submit. It can be a long, sometimes deadly, process. Ever tried to read an insurance contract? Workers comp. is among the worst, and there are many others.

    January 23, 2008 06:10 am at 6:10 am |
  16. Ready for Change in VA

    Healthcare is a hugh concern for my family and me. My father was a miner and worked 16 hour days doing hard labor, and to this day, his body pays the consequences. That certainly comes to more than "a hard day's work". His employers did not give him healthcare, and he did not make enough to purchase independant healthcare. So, for my entire childhood, he was paying medical bills. Is that fair? A lot of folks say, "well, he could have found another job," but you and I both know that one job is hard to come by, much less having career options. Besides, coal provides over 50% of our nation's electricity, so I suppose that all of those miners could go find other jobs and half of you could sit in the dark for the rest of your lives.

    I am a teacher, with health coverage from my district, but in order to have a baby, I would have to pay $5000 out of pocket expenses. How many teachers that you know of just have $5000 laying around?

    America, the time has come for us to socialize medicine. Canada does it. England does it. France does it (and gives all parents–mother and father–paid leave for infant care). Why can't we? We socialize education. Why not healthcare?

    Its a sad day when an illegal immigrant has the ability to go to our hospitals free of charge and our own citizens don't. Wake up!

    January 23, 2008 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  17. Sam

    Poor Gene can't afford to buy insurance and surly can't afford to be without it. I hope he doesn't need it.

    Unfortunately, we all need medical industry protection. Some actually need medical care. Which one does our insurance cover, I think the industry.

    January 23, 2008 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  18. justobserve

    I agree. Health care cost is out of reach. I don't want mandate that force me to buy things that I can't afford. Lower the health cost is the main aim for change.

    January 23, 2008 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  19. karel

    I think Obama is a winner, he has the best vision and team and plans, hillary cant win with arguments so she and Bill started a dirty low campaign with lies and rumors and spindocters, and the worst thing is that Hilary copied every word and plan of Obama that seems to work with voters, and then later claimes she found her voice?
    She says one thing , doest work, then just copies what Obama is campaigning and then tells people Obama is against those plans, she just copied. Blaming Obama with things she is guilty of herself, very dirty propaganda spindocter style.

    January 23, 2008 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  20. Bob

    Tina, keep in mind that LOTS of people vote who don't have time to pay attention to the issues, watch debates, etc., thus, it's very interesting to see what their perspective is.

    January 23, 2008 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  21. Alonzo Demetrius

    I am 72 years old. I raised my children without health insurance. I kept them healthy and well through clean living and good, solid food and a blessing from the Lord. Why do Americans think they have to be 'covered' by insurances? The human body can heal itself without the help of expensive doctoring and drugs. A good old-fashioned infection from time to time actually makes us stronger when our bodies overcome it. Imagine: my parents and old timers didn't go to doctors all the time and their lives were more joyful and happy and they lived as long as we do today. Hillary thinks we are all stupid (except herself of course) that she needs to nanny us; that the government can take better care of us than we can do for ourselves. What nonsense! Don't swallow that.

    January 23, 2008 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  22. Jim

    Bill, I agree completely. There has to be personal responsibility when it comes to taking care of your family. Your first priority in life should be you and your family's health...NOT your net pay. If you really cared about yourself and your family, you'd take a lower paying job with better health care benefits...especially if you know you have health problems or are in a high-risk category. I also believe that the reason health care costs, including insurance, are so high is because people go to the doctor or emergency room for every little thing. A typical cold does not require an office visit...get some rest, stay away from others, and let it run its course. This is how your immune system exercises itself and stays healthy. A splinter does not require an emergency room visit...

    January 23, 2008 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  23. Cheryl

    when Hillary brings our troops home, then we will have money to work with. Ido not have health insurance either, and just spent almost two hundred yesterday to take my daughter to the doctor for antibiotics etc. HILLARY CLINTON is the only one in my opinion that can make this thing work, she has been there before and knows exactly what she needs this time to make it work. I do not want to gamble on this important decision!!!!!! That is why I will vote for HILLARY CLINTON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2008

    January 23, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  24. grape

    who asked this guy to reproduce? Oh I had a bunch of children now feel sorry for me!

    The United States would be better off in the long run giving monthly checks to poor people who don't reproduce. Lets use some systems thinking.

    January 23, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  25. Ru B., NH

    I hate the way this issue is so overdramatized. There's a huge chunk (up to 50%) of the "uninsured" who could be insured, by buying that which is offered by their employers, but these employees don't because they prefer to have the money for cigarettes, electronic luxiries, etc. As a former HR employee, I was amazed how many simply opted not to have insurance until they got sick. No matter how much I stressed the importance of being covered against potential future illness or injury, these employees always signed a waiver of "no, thank you".

    I don't think mandating them to be covered is the answer, either, but if a waiver is found to be on file with an employer offering insurance, then I think that "uninsured" should face the consequences of his choices and pay his own medical bills.

    January 23, 2008 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
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