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Medicare's old-timers on the Interstate to Florida

Travel south on limited budget
Travel south on limited budget
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The new health bill approved on Saturday night for further discussion in the U.S. Senate will cut Medicare wildly. I used to see Medicare recipients and feel jealous. I saw them as retirees in large cars, albeit old ones, going to Florida from any state along the east coast, from Maine to Georgia. Usually two people were in the car, the retired couple ready for a week to six months of warm Florida relaxation.

Raising two little girls occupied my mind in those days, along with very tight monthly budgets. We drove to Florida about once every other year so that our daughters could visit their Gramma and Grampa there. The long trip grabbed a big chunk of funds we stretched so we could make it work. On the way, I'd see those big old cars with old people. "How easy they have it!" I'd think.

Wrong. Yet ignorantly wrong. Not all of them had it easy, and I did not intend to be arrogant and jealous in thinking that way. But I was, and I was wrong because I was ignorant. I had not lived long enough to understand.

Now one of my daughters has children, and they are safely helped by loving parents in a stable home. Yet I know many grandparents who are raising grandchildren and helping the kids' parents, on top of everything else. Retirement funds do not go far when feeding many extra mouths, and help from the State is not what it seems to be. 

I also know grandparents who have mortgaged a paid-for house again to cover medical bills for their parents. I know grandparents doing well until utilities and taxes go up. And up. And up. Endlessly.

When I hear about what is planned for Medicare benefits reductions for older people I think of grandparents like those. Yes, they drove to Florida in old, larger cars, their one past luxury, if you could call it that. While in Florida, they would get calls about help needed from them, back home. I now know that.

I now also know that many retirees living or visiting in Florida still help mentally and physically special needs adult children, with little financial help from anywhere. There are  often sacrificial checks to send, problem-solving to enter into, and grandchildren or great-grandchildren running amok whenever the steady, stable, and financially stretched old folks are away.

I hope that Baltimoreans or Marylanders who drive to Florida will think about those older folks on the highways here and afar. I hope all of us will see and think of them in a new light. They may look cheery and relieved to have a good time away from home. They may seem to be free and unencumbered. And it's true that the more self-absorbed among them may be. Or, they are keeping problems at home to themselves as private matters. They may not mention how they sacrifice to help their children and grandchildren all the time or during hard times.

We should be careful before judging them. The way things are going, the Medicare help may be down to the nub by the time you or I need it. If you are now young, that time may seem so very far away. Yet, it comes so quickly to those of us who have gone ahead of you.

I hope all of us will speak up for Medicare benefits now threatened under the proposed health care reform. I hope we will voice our preference that Medicare NOT be cut. I hope we will continue to call or email our U. S. senators and representatives to urge them to do what is right.

There are many people of advanced ages, even into their 80's, who are still giving so much to society by bearing responsibilities beyond the calls of duty to family and even neighbors. They are helping others more than most, in many cases. They are more personally sacrificial than any member of Congress.

These older, or senior, people in our society of all races and circumstances deserve respect, above all. That respect brings honor. And honor brings abhorrence at any idea of cutting any of their benefits or raising any of their taxes. They, above all, should be a special group in these matters. Especially when so many wealthy financial interests receive big breaks of all kinds from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and from the White House, Seniors--the old-timers--deserve the best.

The Seniors among us deserve the best in care. Not only did they earn it; they continue to earn and deserve it.