She was old, maybe in her late seventies and tiny, like she had not gotten enough to eat when she was small. The osteoporosis was apparent in the hump under her well-worn coat. Her glasses were thick and her fingers knotted. She dropped her bag while waiting for the pharmacist to bring her prescription bag and seemed so grateful when I picked it up for her. The pharmacist looked at the slip stapled to the paper sack and her lips set in a grim line.

“Mrs. Powers. Do you know how much this costs?”

“Well, no. Is it expensive?”

“It’s $263.00.”

The old woman clutched her chest and asked in a shaky voice, “What about my insurance?”

“Medicare only covered $30.00 of this”

“But that’s a third of my benefit check. I can’t pay that much.”

The old lady walked out of the drug store shaking her head and muttering, without the medication.

I thought about that poor old lady throughout the day. I wondered what the drug was and if not having it meant that she would be in pain or get sicker or lose more mobility. I wondered if not having the medication would put her in the hospital or in a nursing home or destroy the quality of her remaining days. I wondered if the executive of the blood sucking pharmaceutical  company who decided how much to charge for that drug would have cared at all.

I worry a lot about insurance. I have two kids who depend on state sponsored insurance for medication that keeps the alive and gives them both a decent quality of life. It is easy to preach about Darwinism and write off those who are cursed with an unfortunate gene sequence but the reality is, it could be any of us, any time, who find ourselves ill. In an effort to keep myself as well as possible, especially as I am no longer 21, I take supplements every day and I also take steps to keep myself as fit a possible. Being ill or out of shape will make any crisis much more difficult, not just for you but for the family who has to care for you. I am hoping for another good 25 years of productive life and a few more to sit on the deck and watch the birds go by while I bore my grandchildren with stories of the old days when everybody drove private cars whenever they liked and ate strawberries in January.

I eat a very good diet. Fortunately, thanks to the greenhouse I can get leafy greens several times a week. Because of the freezer and the root cellar, I eat cruciferous vegetables often. We eat almost no red meat. We eat a lot of whole grains and a ton of orange vegetables. Ido eat more sugar and fats than I should as I love to bake and we can’t get the cow to give skim milk. It doesn’t help to skim off the fat if you then use it to make decadent mashed potatoes and creamed soups.

I prefer to get my vitamins and minerals from my food but there are some things I know I need that my food does not supply enough of. I live in the Northeast so I take a vitamin D supplement as we don’t get reliable sunshine here in the winter. I also take calcium as I am small, slender, blonde haired and blue-eyed and have already broken a couple of bones. I take fish oil for brain and heart health and lutein as I have an early macular degeneration. I take a good quality multivitamin too and I take zinc and C during cold season. I try to buy my vitamins when I find a BOGO deal or when I have a coupon. I walk a lot and I am active anyway. I sometimes have trouble sleeping but I try for 8 hours a night. I don’t smoke and I never drink to excess. I have just given up drinking coffee as I like it with cream and sugar and I don’t need the fat or the calories. The cost was also an issue. Buying shade grown, free trade was expensive. I would rather just do without. I had a couple of days of headaches while my body adjusted but I find I am sleeping better without it. I switched to green tea which has important health benefits and I only miss the coffee on occasion.

Even with all of this and living in a place with clean water and wonderful air quality, I know that disaster could strike at any time. I tend to think we are all too reliant on societal safety nets but it seems as though there are a few things we ought to be able to count on when we get old. We should be able to keep our homes. We should be able to put food on the table. We should be warm enough. We should have access to health care. Is that really asking too much in the country?

 

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