Mrs. Anderson gathered her three children into the living room.
“Well, we can forget about that iPhone we planned to buy next month,” Mrs. Anderson told them.
“But why, mom?” they asked all at once.
“Because the $700 we saved so long to buy it will have to be used for health insurance,” she said. “The Congress is about to get rid of Obamacare and replace it with another health-care plan. We have to save every cent we can.”
“Well, that’s not fair!” said Johnny, the fourth-grader.
“Fair or not, we have no choice,” the mother said. “Just yesterday, a congressman, some guy named Jason Chaffetz of Utah, said low-income Americans (that’s us, kids!) should not buy an iPhone and instead save the money for our health-care premiums and co-payments.”
“I suppose that means we can’t get that new car we were going to buy,” said Judy the teenager.
“New car?” said her mother, laughing. “You mean that 2001 Dodge Stratus we checked out? The one with 89,000 miles on it? We’ll probably have to stick with the old Ford beater that’s nickel-and-diming us half to death.”
“Oh, whatever,” scoffed Judy.
“Hey, Daddy’s home,” shouted Chucky, the first-grader. “Daddy, what’s that in your arms? Is that a present for me?”
“Son, it’s a present for all of us,” Mr. Anderson said. “It’s a jumbo piggy bank. It’s also known as a health-savings account. From now on, I want you kids to put half of your allowance money in this bank. No more bubble gum. No more candy bars.”
“C’mon, dad, that’s not fair!” Judy shouted.
“Life’s not fair,” he said. “Do you think it’s fair your mother and I work minimum-wage jobs? Do you think it’s fair we sometimes have to go to the food shelf? What’s fair about your mother getting breast cancer last year? Is it fair that Chucky broke his arm on the playground? And this isn’t fair, either, but you might have to get a job, Judy.”
“Why?” Judy replied.
“Because – sorry, Judy – but you might have to help us pay health-care premiums,” he said.
“Well, how come we managed before?” she asked.
“Because we had Obamacare,” he told his daughter. “We still do, but that might be repealed soon by Congress. The politicians say their new plan will give us more competition, more freedom, more quality. House Speaker Paul Ryan announced today that everybody – even the poorest (that’s us, kids!) – will be able to afford it if we save enough, but they’ll help us with tax credits. We can choose our own doctors. That’s what our new president promises, too. More choices.”
“Choices? No iPhone? No car? Not even candy, for cryin’ out loud?” Judy scoffed. “Some choices! Why do those politicians get spiffy health care and live so high-on-the-hog, and we have to grovel down in the dumps?”
Mrs. Anderson scolded her daughter.
“Judy, now stop that,” she said. “Those politicians work harder than we do. They are smarter than we are. They know best. Well, at least that’s the way they act. That’s what they say.”
“Yeah, well talk is cheap,” Judy said.
“Maybe so, but we cannot do without health care,” Mrs. Anderson said. “What would I have done without Obamacare? Thanks to that, they caught my breast tumors early, or I probably wouldn’t be here to tell about it.”
Mr. Anderson went out to the car and brought a package into the living room.
“Oh, daddy, a present for me!” Chucky squealed with delight.
“No, son, it’s a home-health-care kit,” he said. “If we can’t save enough money in Mr. Piggy, we might have to depend upon this kit.”
“Well, what’s in it?” Chucky asked, eyes wide.
Mr. Anderson began taking items out of the big box.
“Aspirin, Band-Aids, gauze, cotton balls, Ace bandages, rubbing alcohol, splints, clamps and a bunch of other things,” said Mr. Anderson. “This do-it-yourself health kit might come in handy some day, in a pinch. Look, there’s even a pliers here for pulling out loose teeth.”
“But what if we get really, really sick, like mom did last year?” Judy asked.
“If we can’t save enough for health care, we can’t get sick,” he said, pointing to the new piggy bank. “So don’t you dare get sick, kids. And that’s an order!”
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.