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January 24, 2007

In Sickness and In Health

Health care was a lead item in the president's State of the Union address last night. All the potential presidential candidates have made health care a key issue in their list of priorities. But health care is more than an issue. It's personal. 

Every day real people face issues of life and death. In many cases the wrenching question is not "Should I have that test?" but "Will my insurance company agree to pay for it?"

Today, Dick talks with Sam Woods about his experience with the health care system, both as the husband of a patient, and as a doctor. Sam's wife Beatrice died of breast cancer in 2001, and despite his professional connections, his experience almost broke him financially.

It's a very emotional time in your life. You're facing your wife's death. And do you look at finances?The answer is no. Do you assume your insurance plan will pay most of it because it's a life or death situation and chemo? The answer is yes.
- Sam Woods


Then, Dick talks to Sam's friend, doctor David Thaler. David left private practice to work for the Veterans Administration, and sees the VA as an example of a successful, federally-run health care system that could be applied more broadly in the US.



Listener Art Mines sent an email to suggest a story. This is what he said: "I think you'll find my colleague and friend who is 93 years of age a living inspiration."

And he was right. Marion Downs is full of stories. Most of her stories involve brushes with death.

"I used up all my choices of ways to die, so I can do anything I want."
- Marion Downs


The first story she told us happened when she was 21. It was 1935, Northern Montana. There was a blizzard. Her thermometer read 60 below. The gas in the furnace was frozen. Marion found herself outside with her 3 month old child. 

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