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The People's Prescription 

Gambit hits the streets to interview people on Health Care Reform

Photos by Jess Pinkham

While Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pushes health care legislation through Washington, Gambit hit the streets to take the pulse of people's experience with the issue in New Orleans. We surveyed 100 New Orleanians at local grocery stores and asked if they are insured, who provides their insurance or why they are not insured, how much they pay per month for health care, what they need in a health care plan, if their needs are being met and whether they support health care reform.

  We were stationed at five different grocery stores across New Orleans, each reflecting different urban demographics. These locations were Whole Foods Market on Magazine Street (Uptown), Save-A-Lot on Franklin Avenue (9th Ward), Langenstein's on Arabella Street (Uptown), Zara's Market on Prytania Street (Lower Garden District) and Rouses Market (Mid-City).

  Of our sample, 70 percent of respondents are insured; 30 percent are not. Most receive coverage from an employer and generally need primary care services. Sixty-nine percent of respondents support health care reform, 14 percent do not and 17 percent are undecided.

  The experiences of the New Orleanians with whom we spoke are featured on the following pages.

Zara's Market

Sharon Carletto, 54

Professional photographer

Uptown

Uninsured because can't afford the premiums

Needs primary care, access to specialists, mental health coverage, catastrophic coverage, just in case

Supports reform: "I believe everyone should have the opportunity to take care of themselves. After all, we are paying so much money for research in order to maintain and cure our health issues, we cannot be wasting if we, as Americans, cannot take advantage of the taxes we pay."

 

Aaliyah Muhammed, 24

Social work graduate student

Terrytown

Uninsured

Needs coverage for chronic conditions

Supports reform

 

Michael Ashford, 26

Artist/barback

Lower Garden District

Uninsured

Needs primary care and coverage for specialists, just in case

Supports reform: "I think it is something everyone should get taken care of."

 

Amy Rush, 23

Student at Tulane

Insured through parents

Needs primary care coverage, just in case.

Supports reform: "The entire system needs to be reformed. I don't agree with the bill in full, but something needs to be done. Tort reform — [I'm] not 100 percent sold on the public option.

care of."

 

Henry Bostick, 29

Bartender at St. Charles Tavern

Lower Garden District

Insured privately

Pays $100-$250 per month

Needs primary care coverage

Does not support reform: "Too much to explain."

 

Bush Brighton, 32

Banker at Whitney Bank

Garden District

Insured by employer

Pays $400-$600 per month

Needs primary care coverage, access to specialists

Does not support reform: "Change plan. Competition between states. No discrimination for pre-existing conditions. Medicare for lower class/poor. Not in favor of public option unless other reforms have no results."

 

Margot Day, 55

Secretary

Gentilly

Insured privately

Pays $400-$600 per month

Needs primary care, access to specialists, treatment for chronic conditions, mental and reproductive health coverage, catastrophic care, just in case Supports reform: "Everyone needs to be able to have care."

 

Jessie Harris, 45

Zara's employee

Uptown

Insured privately

Pays less than $100 per month

Needs insurance just in case

Supports reform: "Because my wife is handicapped. She's been like this for 18 years. She's been diabetic since she was 14. I have a 9-year-old son."

 

Donald Trout, 53

Self-employed

Uninsured because can't afford premiums

Needs primary care, access to specialists, coverage for chronic conditions (bi-polar disorder, depression, STDs, dental), mental health, reproductive health, catastrophic coverage

Supports reform: "Something needs to be done."

 


 

Langenstein's

Cheryll Goodman, 63

Retired aerobics instructor

Uptown

Insured by partner's employer

Unsure if supports reform: "Not what just passed the House, whatever is coming up in the Senate; we will see. I need to read the fine print on what I would support, but I'm not good at writing my congressman."

 

Ann Klimas, 49

Physical therapist

Uptown

Insured by partner's employer

Pays $400-$600 per month

Needs primary care, access to specialists, mental health services and catastrophic coverage

Supports reform: "To make it more affordable."

 

Michelle Lackoric, 45

Health research

Uptown

Insured by partner's employer

Pays $200-$400 per month

Needs primary care and access to specialists just in case

Supports reform: "Large number of uninsured. Improve quality of care/life. Reduce health care costs."

 

Nora Lustig, 58

Economics professor at Tulane

Uptown

Insured by employer

Pays $400-$600 a month

Supports reform: "I believe that everybody is entitled to affordable health care and you can only achieve it with a well-functioning public health insurance system."

 

Kaki Kohnke, 52

Homemaker

Uptown

Insured privately

Pays more than $600 a month for family

Needs primary care, access to specialists, care for a chronic condition, mental health and reproductive care, catastrophic care, just in case

Does not support reform: "I don't want the government taking that over. I feel very strongly about that. I do not want socialized medicine."

 

Mimi Ryan, 31 (with son James)

School counselor
Uptown
Insured
Buys individual coverage
Pays $200-$400 a month
Needs general practice, reproductive health care

Supports reform: "I think too many people can't afford [health care]."

  "It was hard just to find a good policy that we could afford that was going to give us the kinds of coverage that we needed and was going to be affordable. When you are not with an employer, when you are self-employed, it is just more challenging. Just recognizing the limitations that those policies have even when we can afford to pay for our own — I just can't imagine someone who is on a limited income and is trying to do that. It is really impossible."

 

Ted Alpauga, 85

Retired engineer

Insured by Medicare

Pays less than $100 a month

Does not support reform: "I think it is a reform of our Constitution. They are trying to steal our freedoms, everything. And I am very much against it."

 

Sabrina Durling-Jones, 37

Filmmaker

Mid-City and Venezuela

Supports reform: "Because I live in a Third World country where I have access to free (and very good) healthcare."

 

Howard Russell, 71

Retired physician

Uptown

Insured by Medicare

Pays $200-$450 a month

Supports reform

 

Barbara West, 81

Uptown

Insured by Medicare

Needs insurance just in case

Does not support reform: "[It's] too expensive for future generations to have a huge debt."

 

D.C. Hardy, 80

Retired archivist

Uptown

Insured by Medicare

Needs primary care, just in case

Supports reform: "Because it's the civilized thing!"

 

Kenneth Landos, 41

Landscaper

Uptown

Uninsured

Needs primary care, access to specialists, and chronic condition, mental health and catastrophic care

Supports reform

 

Marlene Friis, 39

Instructor of English as a second language at Delgado

Hurstville

Insured by partner's employer

Pays $400-$600 a month

Needs primary care, specialists, reproductive practitioners, catastrophic care, just in case

Supports reform: "Just in general. People in modern Western society should have access to health care. I'm originally from Denmark, so it's a bit mystifying to me why it is an issue here. Part of being in a democratic society is to share the burden and benefits of health care. As it is, people who have it don't really care about people who don't, but in the end we are all paying the same bill."

 

Mirella Cameran, 41

Stay-at-home mother

Uptown

Insured by partner's employer

Needs general practice

Supports reform: "Greater provision for less economically well-off."

 


 

Rouses

Francis Cole

Retired

Mid-City

Insured by former employer and Medicare

Needs insurance just in case

Supports reform

 

George Sartin, 49

Musician

Uptown

Uninsured (because he can't afford it)

Does not support reform, because he is not sure what it is

 

John M. Clark, 35

Roofer

Uninsured (because can't afford premiums)

Needs primary care

Supports reform: Need changes in health care

 

Nicole Jones, 30

Singer

Carrollton

Insured privately

Pays less than $100 per month

Needs primary care

Supports reform: "We just need a change."

 

Jamie Allen, 27

Barista

Marigny

Insured privately

Pays less than $100 per month

Needs primary care

Supports reform: "Everyone should have health care."

  "I am not at the poverty line, but I am not in a corporate career that has benefits, so I am always going to pay the most out of pocket. I feel like I will never win, no matter what the reforms are. I am not married, I don't have kids, I don't have a lot of responsibility, but I will always pay the most for everyone else. I don't know what to do about it. I guess I [support health care reform] but I am not going to benefit. Everyone should have health care."

 

Joe Hess, 45

Unemployed plumber

Metairie

Uninsured

Needs primary care, access to specialists and mental health services.

Undecided about reform

  "I was seeing double and the doctor told me one of the reasons I would be seeing double is because I have brain tumors. So I got them checked. I've got brain tumors. I tried to get medical assistance. I couldn't work because it would make me f—ed up in the head. I got one biopsy. One they can't touch. It is messing with my vision; I seem to be tired all the time. When I am tired, my symptoms are way worse. This has been going on for years. I can't even do anything. I am unemployed in plumbing. I am just doing side work."

 

Darnesha Coleman, 16

Student

Jefferson

Insured by Medicaid

Needs primary care services

Supports reform: "It's helping me when I have a problem and can turn to my health care provider and not pay too much."

 

Chris Martin, 46

Waiter at Irene's

Mid-City

Uninsured: "It isn't part of my plan. It's expensive and I haven't signed up for it."

Needs primary care, just in case

Supports reform: "I think it is a good idea — more affordable for the population."

 

Cynthia Parker, 58

Student

4th Ward

Uninsured "Because I can't afford it and I'm unemployed right now."

Needs primary care

Supports reform: "Because there's so many people unemployed and are not covered, can't afford insurance due to the recession."

  "Before my sister passed [away last March], she didn't have any insurance other than the six months free insurance they were offering at University Hospital. ... Not having insurance limited her visits. She had to go I guess whenever she (could be) fit in, and if it ran out she had to go through the process all over again for another six months. She had a heart bypass [after] a massive heart attack, but she had other little illnesses, like she became a diabetic, she suffered with her blood pressure, she suffered with having a bad hip. And since Katrina, doctors not really being here, she had to travel to Hammond just to get treatment for her hip. I think all of that [took] a toll on her health. If she ... had other insurance other than the six months free plan, maybe [treatment] would have been better or more frequent. Something that I am thinking, could have been prevented, her death."

 

Arnold Johnson, 41

Post office worker

Uptown

Insured by employer

Pays less than $100 per month

Needs primary care

 

Nathan McCullough, 30

Department of Defense mechanic (just returned from Iraq)

Mid-City

Insured by employer

Pays less than $100 per month

Needs primary care

Supports reform

 

Christine Ignacio, 23

AmeriCorps

Treme

Insured by employer

Needs insurance just in case

Supports reform: "Health care is important/needed."

 

L. Hallaran, 74

Retired physician at Tulane School of Medicine

Uptown

Insured by Medicaid

Pays $200-$400 per month

Needs specialist care

 

Augusto Martinez, 64

Unemployed

Treme

Uninsured

Pays $100-$250 per month

Does not support reform: "Too expensive for people."

 

Reba Orvold, 66

Retired legal secretary

Mid-City

Insured through Medicare

Needs specialist care

Undecided about whether she supports reform




Sav-A-Lot



Arthur Smith, 77

Unemployed

Homeless since Hurricane Katrina, previously lived in the Marigny

Insured by Medicaid

Supports reform

 

Eric Blue Jr., 56

Retired mechanic

9th Ward

Insured by Medicaid

Needs primary care

Supports reform: "Because it helps all people."

 

Richelle Robinson, 29

Stay-at-home mother

Gentilly

Insured by employer

Pays less than $100 per month

Supports reform

 

Joshua Stone, 54

Musician

Bywater

Uninsured because of cost

Needs primary care

Supports reform: "Change is good."

 

Alcee Brown, 65

Unemployed

Gentilly

Insured by Medicaid

Pays less than $100 per month

Needs treatment for high blood pressure

 

Josette Curvey, 32

Home health worker

9th Ward

Uninsured because can't afford premiums

Pays less than $100 per month

Needs primary care coverage, just in case

Supports reform: "If it is possible for me to get insurance and it's something affordable, I would surely support it."

 

Willie Slaughter, 57

Groundskeeper

Mid-City

Uninsured because he can't afford premiums

Needs primary care and mental health services and has a chronic condition

Supports reform: "I feel that if other countries can provide free health care, this great country should, too."

 

Louis Cousin, 80

Patrolman and journeyman machinist

9th Ward

Uninsured because he's in financial difficulty

Pays $100-$250 per month

Needs primary care, access to specialists, treatment for chronic conditions: diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, cardiovascular problems, glaucoma and cataracts

Supports reform

  "My last visit to the optometrist I was told that I am losing my eyesight. I take six drops of eye drops daily for glaucoma. I have been having huge cataracts for the last six or seven years, but I only take drops for glaucoma. I am taking those drops because they cannot seem to dilate my eyes enough to get the right reading. [If I had health insurance], they would operate on them. They haven't even suggested an operation."

 

David Lanoix, 46

Construction worker

9th Ward

Uninsured due to cost

Needs insurance just in case

Does not support reform: "I don't know that much about it. "

 

Robert Snyder, 60

Retired

Uptown

Insured by former employer

Pays $100-$250 per month

Needs catastrophic care

Supports reform: "U.S. needs (insurance) for poor people"

 

Tameka Lewis, 26

No employment information available

No neighborhood available

Insured by Medicaid

Pays less than $100 per month

Needs mental health services

Supports reform

  "If you need surgery done and all that, [Medicaid] don't cover none of that. You just don't get the surgery; if you do get it, you have to come out of your pocket and pay. Say if you need your appendix removed, they don't pay for that. If you have a cyst or something, they'll cover that. But surgery, they won't cover that. And staying in the hospital, they won't cover that. I had my appendix removed and they wouldn't cover that. My mom paid $3,500. It was about to erupt so I had to get the surgery right then and there. "

 

Reggie Brown, 56

Janitor

Insured by Medicaid

Needs primary care coverage

Supports reform and equal coverage

  "More people that need health care should be able to get it. In between the poverty line and the middle class, I think they are hit the most hardest. If you are poor, they will give it to you. But if you have got a little something, they are going to try to take it from you. So you can't keep your head above the water. If you are paying for the insurance, you are going back to the poverty line again."

 

Setonya Nealy, 37

Private-care attendant

Uninsured because can't afford to pay for it

Supports reform

  We have to pay for [health care] ourselves. I really don't get sick, but (when I do) I just go to the emergency room, let them send me a bill and pay, you know, what I can pay on it. [If I can't pay, I] send them a letter explaining my situation. [Recently I went to the emergency room for] an ear infection.

 

Michael Wills, 34

Roofer

Downtown

Uninsured because of cost

Supports reform

 


 

Whole Foods

Louis Harris, 25

Student

Broadmoor

Insured through school

Needs primary care, access to specialists, treatment for chronic conditions

Supports reform: "Socialized medicine leads to healthier overall being, less infection, longer life span and equality among society."

  "I have subglottic stenosis. It is the narrowing of my airway. It is an autoimmune disease that started about a year and a half ago. I just started going to Loyola for the MBA program, so I had to forfeit my group health care with the employer I was working with until May of this year. Now I am under a student insurance plan, which is $1,000 a year roughly and only covers 80 percent of my bills, so I have to pay around $3,000 a year out of pocket. If we had socialized medicine, I would be able to get treated without any costs, just increased taxes, which I don't mind paying for. I am all for socialized medicine."

 

Philip Sevia, 27

Waiter

Garden District

Uninsured because can't afford coverage

Needs insurance, just in case

Supports reform: "Because free or cheaper health care will be a blast."

 

Tommy McConnell, 27

Waiter

Garden District

Uninsured

Pays less than $100 per month

Needs primary care

Supports reform: "I have no insurance."

 

Farah Arosemena, 34

Public health researcher

Uptown

Insured by employer

Pays $200-$400 per month

Needs primary care, access to specialists, reproductive health services, catastropic coverage, just in case.

Supports reform: "Health care for all is the type of social change this country needs. "

 

Dinah Rankin, 18

Student at Loyola

Uptown

Insured through parents

Pays $200-$400 per month

Needs primary care

Supports reform: "I think that medicine should be aimed at preventative care and more available and accessible to a wider demographic. It also shouldn't bankrupt people."

 

R. Silverstein, 32

Self-employed

Lakefront

Insured by Medicaid

Needs primary care coverage

Does not support reform: "I just don't think the government should be in charge of my health care."

 

Allie Shipp, 23

Law student at Tulane

Uptown

Insured (parents pay premiums)

Needs primary care

Supports reform: "I think everyone should have the right to health care. I don't think the current system is working."

 

Steven Hynn, 49

IT consultant

Carrollton

Insured privately

Pays $100-$250 a month

Needs primary care and mental health services, access to specialists, care for chronic conditions, catastrophic coverage, just in case

Supports reform: "Because the cost of health care is out of control."

 

Neal Bost, 23

Medical student

Uptown

Insured (father pays premiums)

Needs insurance just in case and dental and ophthalmology coverage for eye problems

Supports reform: "I think it's the best option for the people who are uninsured and can't afford it right now."

 

James Cowan, 20

Student at Tulane

Insured by parents' employer

Needs primary care

Supports reform

 

Barbara McPhee, 69

Retired Orleans Parish public school principal

Uptown

Insured by Medicare

Pays $180 per month

Needs primary care, access to specialists, mental health services, treatment for chronic condition, catastrophic coverage, just in case

Supports reform: "Good health care is a right, not a privilege."

 

Ron Nette, 48

Receiver at Whole Foods

St. Charles Parish

Insured by employer

Needs dental insurance

Does not support reform: "Them people are crazy. I don't think the people who are in it — the Congress — even understood it. It seems you have to go to school for two years just to understand it. ... They're gonna educate everybody, which is great I guess, but there'll be nobody to work."

 

Storm Ehlers, 25

Law student

Riverbend

Uninsured because it's too expensive and "not worth it"

Pays less than $100 per month

Needs primary care, access to specialists, mental health care, treatment for chronic conditions, reproductive health, catastrophic care, just in case

Supports reform: "Because of instances like today where my husband has bronchitis and can't afford to get a chest X-ray. He might be able to if he had [insurance]."

 

Alex Matkin, 24

Cook

7th Ward

Uninsured

Needs dental, dermatological coverage

Supports reform: "Everybody needs help now and then."

  "I was leaving work on my bike, going to Halloween on Frenchmen (Street), got tagged by a car and ended up in the middle of the street, a bunch of people around me. The ambulance came and took me to University Hospital. They treated me."

 

Mwalima Johnson, 72

Excutive assistant

Central Business District

Insured by employer

Pays less than $100 per month

Needs insurance just in case

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