My Turn, Your Turn: Health care

By Gary McNair - bio|email

I got a voicemail the other day from a rather irate man who was upset because I haven't done a commentary on health care, so here it is.

I've avoided this subject because a part of me is torn.  I know there are situations where through no fault of their own, people suffer due to lack of affordable health care.  But at the same time, I don't like the thought of our government getting involved in anything else, and that includes health care and health insurance.

I'd like it much better if our government expected each of us to learn to be responsible and take care of ourselves - instead of trying to be our safety net.  I think we've developed a "government will take care of me" mentality, and the big problem with that is the government doesn't have the financial means to pull it off.

What many people don't think about is government can't give anybody anything they don't take from someone else, and that "someone else" in most cases is someone who has worked hard and has lived responsibly.

It has to stop somewhere - or at some point we're going to provide so much incentive to not work, not plan and not be responsible, we'll have more people on the take than those who are able to provide for them.

That's my turn.  Now it's your turn.  To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me at

Emailed response from viewers:

I always try to catch you 'my turn" pieces. If for nothing more than to gain insight to some else's opinion. This time, however, you spoke directly from my thoughts. I happen to know a girl (and her husband) that are abusing "the system" and every time she brags on how many animals she is feeding and taking care of, I just want to say "and yet you get food stamps for your children". Then I will hear, "my husband can't work because he is on a pain patch and no one will hire him". When I was growing up, I don't remember anyone drug testing a self employed handyman or yard care provider.

My husband struggles to provide for us, because I am going to school full time for nursing. There are weeks we have to budget carefully so that we can buy the things that we need and sometimes put a bill off until the next paycheck.

Now, who do you think is paying for all of the things that her and her husband are getting just because they know how to work the system and are too non-self sufficient to provide for themselves. It just burns me up to the point that I try not to even talk to her anymore because I don't want to say something I may regret.


Please let me take exception to your recent "My Turn".

Not every one who gets sick is sick because of some lifestyle choice. Take, for example, my late wife...

She had cancer of the base of the tongue. Our insurance company first said it was dental and they weren't paying. Then it was lifestyle to reject coverage. Fortunately I had an apeal to a higher authority and the insurance company had to give coverage... She never smoked. She never drank an alcoholic beverage. She never used snuff. She never ate hot Mexican food. The Dr. at Duke said it was too bad that she didn't do any of the above... If she did, all she would have to was to quit and she would never have to worry about a recurrence. He said further that since she didn't do any of these things, they weren't going to be able to treat her. Sixteen years later she died. In between she had seven horrific surgeries, two course of radiation, seven or eight courses of chemo. All of these were to no avail. The thought was that there was a virus, but which one?

This was definitely not lifestyle.


I was not sure if I could reply to your view of people without heathcare or without other entitlements. I am retired and have worked for more than 48yrs. Most of which was with insurances provided by my employer. I never knew nor understood that there were people and more families working hard in the riches country in the world without insurance and in some cases enough food. I remember when I grew up, we were poor but didn't know it. My father said to me and my sibllings that the only thing he could promise is food on the table, clothes on your back and a roof over your head. We never had health insurance and when sick went to the doctor or he came to the house ( for only $5.00).  If something bad happened we made arragements to pay it off. At that time it was not that expensive, $5-6 dollors a month til payed off. As you know it's not that any more..

I remember one day when my son was in 4th grade he came home one day upset. I asked what was wrong and he told me that one of his friend in school was being made fun of because he did not many clothes. I asked if the parents worked and my son said, "yes" both worked. I could'nt believe that if both parents worked how could they not get the young man clothing?  I thought about it and figured that they must be spending the money elsewhere ( maybe booze, drugs, gambeling). Well I did'nt think that my son should have to feel bad and maybe we could do something to help him. We got the address and gathered some clothing that my son wanted to give along with some other families in my neighborhood. We went go over during the day when everyone was at school or work to leave the boxes of clothing and shoes. When we got to the address it was a bus with curtains and a electric wire leading to the house next to it. I could'nt believe it they lived in a bus.

I check around and it was true, they have lived there for 2 years. Mother and father both hard working people with 2 children and they lived in a bus. I also found out they did not drink or use drugs they only made min. wages and could not find and liveable housing they could afford. The worse part I was told by the local police and neighbors is that they where not able to get help because they did not have an address. No medicaid for them or children, no food stamps or any assistance. They were to proud to go to the shelters or ask churches for any help. The neighborhood got together and did alot to get them safe until thier lives improved.

Well I learned something that week and I thank God everyday for my lesson on life outside my small box.

Please, I watch you and thought you might want to know how hard families in this great country sometimes find it. I hope you or yours never have to.


Thank you so much for your opinion regarding National HealthCare!  You hit the nail on the head.

I whole heartedly agree that there needs to be some healthcare reform.  I think that this should be reform  in the private sector only.  Especially for the elderly; those who genuinely need medical  help and  the issues surrounding  pre-existing condition clauses .    However, I will never be convinced that the federal government could ever provide a plan that is fair to all ( much less afford it since we are already in record debt!).

What happened to the "American Dream"?   It's dying a quick death in part by politicians (who know the health  plan we have will never compare to the plan they have) or by generation after generation of those who live off society! .  Those who fall in the cracks usually suffer in silence.   Politicians promoting this national healthcare plan are  merely  pacifying the American people who voted for them.    To even think of considering illegal aliens get that same coverage is a slap in the face!   What?  A reward for never contributing one dime to this society?

On the whole, it is individual responsibility that accounts for those who do have health care.  Many of us have struggled to make monthly payments to pay off medical bills year after year in order to  maintain a sense of self worth.  We made sure that we had health care be it individual or part of a company benefit that we earned!

Seems to me that the government needs to start looking at the wasted spending, wasted Congressional spending, Medicare and Medicaid fraud and the  endless bailouts (universal healthcare is another bailout) instead of sticking their noses into anymore of the American peoples' business!


Mr. McNair, I usually take your opinions with a grain of salt as we Southerners say around here. But you got it right on the Government run Healthcare. I may give you more credit from now on. And take that from someone that works in the Healthcare Industry and believe me it is an Industry, keep up the good work.


I just listened to your healthcare commentary and I am extremely disappointed in your opinions.  If you believe that the government should not be in healthcare, does that include Medicare and Medicaid?  If so, then you want to remove the protection of healthcare for millions of people.  This country is the only industrialized democracy that does not ensure universal healthcare for their citizens.  You indicated in your comments that if the government provides healthcare, then we will develop a nation of people that want to be taken care of by the government.  Strange, that is not a problem in Japan, which is more free-enterprising then this nation (and has more private hospitals, doctors and insurance companies then the US), nor Germany, Switzerland or many other countries that guarantee affordable healthcare for their people.  I must say, that your approach sounds very much like someone who has not had difficulty obtaining health insurance nor having to fight with insurance companies to get their healthcare delivered without being rationed by the carriers.  I strongly suggest that you obtain and read the new book out on healthcare by T.R. Reed, "The Healing of America".  He has studied many of the other industrialized nations that do provide healthcare to all.  Maybe, after some research you will see that this nation needs to ensure that healthcare is provided for all citizens.  By the way, the proposal of the President does not have government providing all of the healthcare, but only a public option for those who cannot get affordable insurance coverage through other means.


"People on the take". We couldn't believe our ears with this highly charged, offensive remark on this evening's commentary (September 17). I'm on Social Security - am I on the take? We're served by the police, sheriff and fire departments - are we on the take? We drive on highways paid for by governments - are we on the take?

Further, what are the two best run medical programs in this country which also happen to have the lowest administration costs per client served? The VA and Medicare. Indeed, the only people who are really "on the take" are the insurance companies who profit from keeping medical costs so high.


A huge amen.  I believe that was the FIRST intelligent comment on the topic of "health care / government involvement in our lives" that I have heard from any of the ABC/NBC/CBS network stations.  Certainly the first in many years!  My hat is off to you.  Perhaps this the start of something positive.  Thanks for speaking up.


What is it that makes people like you (obviously have a good paying job and can afford reasonable health care) speak for everyone else.  For instance, I, too, had a great job, working for the US Government for 30 plus years, and retiring with a fairly nice pension.  On the other hand, I have had heart problems since I was 14 years old - have had heart surgery in 1958, and open-heart surgery in 1964 (wherein I had a replaced mitral valve).  I am now 68, retired, and do have Medicare Part A.  I couldn't afford Part B - why, because, although I spent the first 10 plus years working in private industry under Social Security, and several years during and after my civil service, the Government Offset limits my Social Security benefits.  It's so bad that I only received $137/month, which went up to $139/month when I turned 65.  Had I kept the Part B Medicare, I would have gotten $32/month Social Security.  I do have Government health insurance that costs me $90+ a month.  It's BCBS and requires co-pays of $25.00 whenever I go see a doctor.  Okay, since I have a replacement valve, I have to take Coumadin - not the generic, but the real stuff.  Co-pay for that is $35.00 for 1 month's supply.  I also have to have my blood checked at least once a month, often two or three times a month, each costing me $25.00 co-pay.  Then, I have to take Blood Pressure medication, again not the generic kind, but the real stuff with a co-pay of $35.00.  I am 68 and also suffer from asthma, and emphysema (although I never smoked) and thus have to use an inhaler (co-pay $35.00 at least every month).  I also suffer from some kind of lack of oxygen at night and have to be on oxygen, at a co-pay of $58.00/month.  Besides those, each infection costs me additional prescription drugs, doctor's visits, etc.  In the last month alone, I have spent close to $350 in co-pays, medicines, emergency visits, doctors visits.  These kinds of expenses are what I consider unforeseen expenses because no one cares if you get sick.  They think it's your own fault.  I didn't ask for my illnesses, and, luckily, I was able to get insurance because I worked for the Government.  However, there are millions of people out there who cannot get health insurance either because it's not offered to them, but mostly because they cannot afford it.  These are the ones that "fall through the cracks" or "live on welfare" or "are on medicaid" or "just plain don't go to get help because it's not available to them.  The Republicans want to fine people who don't get health insurance coverage.  You tell me how a family of four or more with a limited income (some of the providers work for fast food restaurants at $7.50/hour) can afford housing, utilities, clothing, food, etc., and still pay $150 to $250 a month for health insurance.  If they fine them, how do they think the people are going to pay the fines?  If they can't afford insurance, they certainly won't be able to afford the fines.  I don't understand why people can't get real on the health care issues.  Everyone should be able to get health care when needed, whether they have insurance or not.  The trouble is the darn insurance companies.  They have to pay their CEOs unheard of bonuses, salaries, benefits, and then make oodles of profits for their stockholders.  I guess money talks.


I agree that it is best for the government to stay out of health care. The problem is that we have left it up to the medical and insurance industries who have taken advantage of everyone. I am not sure what to do to fix it, but we need to do something to control the medical costs so that everyone can afford at least basic care.


The congress does not pay into the health care they receive; if they did it would solve the money problems they keep using to scare the public.

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