Guest Op-Ed: Real People Lost In The Debate

The following was submitted by Rick Day, a regular reader and commenter who usually has a unique approach to most issues of the day.  We are posting at his request.

There was a recent post about a Twitter war over dirty politics about a suicide.

Lost in the fracas of social media faux pas nuance and Obamacare blather, the real story was conveniently ignored.

The story of Randy Bell. I know his story because it is going on right now in my extended family.

Oh, I’m sure for many it’s easier to type about ‘civil conversations’ in social media while ignoring Mr. Bell’s creepy politeness about the mess he was about to make.

“Tell the coroner the door is unlocked. I’ll be in the shower”. Dang, just too much pain to think about. Who wants to cry over a stranger’s desperation when there are political points to make?

“Thanks for being my friend.”

The only difference between Bell’s plight and that of my ex-wife Susie is that she has someone. She worked all her life and was employed by the University system in TN when she too suffered a stroke, Christmas Day. She too lost her sight and mobility. She too has lost everything she saved. She too is in that limbo between COBRA and Medicare/Medicaid. She makes $213 a month too much to qualify for public assistance. Her COBRA payment is $600 a month. She brings in $1325. Our son can’t work. He is her full time caregiver.

My son will be 30 in 3 weeks, the prime of adulthood. Instead of working, paying taxes living life and consuming, he is the only thing that keeps her from going the route of Mr. Bell. And she has begged him to let her go the route of Mr. Bell.

Who among us, given Susie and Randy’s new reality, would not consider such options?

Almost as worse, who would want to be the full time caregiver to someone who has to stay at home, until qualifying for some arbitrary age triggered benefit? Look over at your spouse or parent. Willing to be that person responsible for changing their diaper while you watch them mentally deteriorate? Alone? 24/7? Would you sacrifice like this if it would save a nickel on your taxes? Do you expect others to?

Randy, Susie, our son – these are the faces of the ‘leeches’ who live off the public dole the right labels as a problem. These are the faces politically focused people seem to ignore in the general conversations about all things government. Like the post did regarding the real story behind the tweets; it ignores the uncomfortable reality of the existence of this very real problem.

So what about Randy? Well to most, he was a byline in a blog post; petty bickering at the post funeral pot luck lunch. To me, he was a man, more worried about his dog’s comforts than his own. I would have liked this man, if I had known him. And he allowed it.

Ultimately, aren’t we are all only one random clot away from being in Randy’s situation?

I don’t want thoughts or prayers for Susie or Randy. Save them for your school ball teams. I want you all to be aware *again* that this issue has substance and is impacting real lives, not fodder for policy wank.  PLEASE hold on to your human side, when making political points. Acknowledge and address the human impact of your position.

I felt the story of Randy Bell deserved a front page revisit from a different perspective. Thank you for allowing it.



  1. DeKalb Wonkette says:

    Beautifully stated; thank you for the post. We often forget about the people that really do need our help.

  2. John Konop says:

    Rick thank you for the honest post, I do think the truth does set us free. I will pray for you and your family, as well others facing similar situations. I will also pray your words will open up other people to at least rationally discuse this issue. We all must come together, and work on better alternatives…..I hope we can all stop the political bs….on this issue.

  3. Harry says:

    The incentives to deal with these types of difficulties needs to be built from bottom up, not from the top down. Individual < Family < Church < Community < State < And finally, Federal. Right now the incentives run from the top down. It will never work very well that way.

  4. DeKalb Wonkette says:

    Very true Harry! What you posit is actually the model upon which human services developed in the southern states. It was only when the community was unable to address a problem directly that a state role developed, first with Confederate war veterans.

    There’s two issues here: First how do we structure public assistance programs in a manner that people who are truly in need can readily access them w/o the woodwork effect of attracting many others whose need is more arguable? Second, how do we offer care in a manner that is humane both for the person who needs it as well as the caregiver? The latter issue is a biggie affecting care of people with disabilities and the aged.

        • John Konop says:


          I am real big on people who want to contribute if they can. My frustration on this issue is many want to contribute….but some spit on them and call the free loaders. I believe the majority of Americans support concepts like preexisting conditions……..You are right without some behavior modification rules people will abuse the system.

          Something is wrong when all of us are one lottery ticket away from getting sick and getting wiped out. I have been very blessed with my business ventures. The truth is if I had a choice between wiping out what I have made/ family security ……I would not seek treatment…… me I thought this out with my scare……

          • Harry says:

            As we have discussed, the laws and framework are not in place to encourage non-centralized, competitive solutions. I have come to the same conclusion as you. I don’t plan to seek expensive efforts to delay the inevitable – even if I have coverage. Where is it written that I soak up resources in place of a younger or more deserving person.

            • Noway says:

              Harry, +1000000000000
              Ever see the scene in Lonesome Dove when Gus dies…
              “I might wanna kick a pig…”
              See it on Youtube…
              That will me if I’m ever in that situation!

              • Three Jack says:

                I’m with you Harry. And even if one chooses to utilize all life preserving means available, what is the quality of life under those circumstances. I saw it firsthand with my father last year prior to him finally succumbing to the inevitable. Medicare covered it all, well into six figures but he was as unhappy as I ever saw him due to his many illnesses. His best day of 2012 was his last as the pain, suffering and bureaucratic nightmare finally ended.

    • Bull Moose says:

      To echo what has already been said, the South is not a model of human decency that I would build any society around. There may be some elements of service that are noble and worthy of acknowledgment, but by and large, throughout history, most elements of human service as delivered in the south of yesterday, which you are trying to glorify, are a disgrace to mankind and everyone who tolerated such atrocities.

    • saltycracker says:

      Seems like p.r. was covered when working in a state university system for an entire career, and maybe paying into S.S too, so something went horribly wrong and the son stepped up.

      • I know, I’m on the same page as you. I was referring to the tea-partier that died someone made a comment about bring their crayons to teach us about personal responsibility.

        My general take on personal responsibility is that my definition of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness doesn’t require me to have an actuarial understanding of the health insurance industry to navigate it the same way I shouldn’t have to be well versed in electrical engineering or regulatory frameworks to flip a switch and have the light turn on.

  5. Bull Moose says:

    Rick thank you for sharing a very thoughtful point of view.

    It is so unfortunate that partisans have turned away from ignoring the human element to these situations.

    I do not want to cheapen this by using any of this to make a political point, but I will offer that the pain of desperation that leads someone to suicide is very real and it’s a growing problem in our society that needs serious attention.

  6. Ghost of William F Buckley says:

    Almost any of us can represent the story of Mr. Randy Bell and Susie. A part of my soul greys each time I learn of these stories, there are so, so many of them.

    Many have testified, lobbied, and poignantly shared personal stories like Rick’s to raise awareness that in the Land of Plenty, most all of us are a life-changing diagnosis away from a similar situation. As many will attest, simply discussing healthcare reform is a toxic subject with our General Assembly.

    When enough of painful stories begin to filter up from each political district, then perhaps we will see changes. In the meantime, powerful industry advocacy forces do what they do best – Present facts that minimize human suffering, in lieu of worse effects if commerce withers under the long reach of government.

    Like everything else, there is a middle ground, a balance. In our highly polarized political structure, the middle ground is radioactive. Thus, people make do, they improvise, they act as best they can, in spite of those who should be carrying their shield.

    ACA has many, many flaws. Knowledgeable and powerful doctors, patients, lawmakers, and regulators are currently working to tweak, re-write, and change what doesn’t work. ACA will not resolve the inefficacy of healthcare outcomes, coupled with the highest costs among industrialized nations. See here:

    The solution is a patient/physician centric model, which ACA impedes. Yet, any serious attempt to eliminate ACA, at this point, will end badly.

    US healthcare finance reform is a National disgrace. The complex mess has plenty enough blame to share on a bipartisan, non-regional basis. It is an immoral breach of trust for everyone, especially those who are poor, sick and cannot provide for themselves.

    • Good comment, though I’m more optimistic about Romneycare than you are. To my conservative friends – there are over 100 laboratories of democracy on this planet. Which one of them has a functioning healthcare system that you’d like to emulate? I don’t think the Price plan or other alternatives are in place working anyway – and that includes the experiences of multi-national corporations which for all purposes run their own healthcare programs pretty much as single payer.

      • Ghost of William F Buckley says:

        Life-changing diagnoses are apolitical; there is no Democratic diabetes any more than there is a Republican retrovirus.

        The answer, my friends, lies in adult conversations about end-of-life decisions using advance directives and not calling them ‘Death Panels,’ or a serious look at the cost of trauma care for gang-related, uninsured gunshot wounds, or cost-shifting among payor groups, or … the list just goes on and on, ad infinitum.

        Healthcare is the only industry in the history of commerce that was never ‘cost-based,’ and we still suffer the consequences of that profound truth. The next 5-6 years will be tough as things get sorted out. In twenty, we will see if ACA did anything at all to lower the healthcare cost curve and improve outcomes.

        That tremendous uncertainty coincides directly with the largest patient influx to our system in history – aging and dying Boomers. An aging population, coupled with endemic obesity, and we have years of cheerless stories ahead, fa

        • John Konop says:

          You are right about end of life directives, about 70 percent of healthcare on a macro is spent on your last 6 months of life. We cannot fix the issue with Dems screaming killing grandma and GOP screaming death panels. The truth is the concept of a 100 percent fix for issues is a crazy bar. But both sides use the exception for politics over doing what is best…….

  7. hewhoone says:

    Rick- Thank you for your powerful reminder that the policies we debate have real and painful consequences. I appreciate your willingness to share your personal experiences and we must never forget the human stories behind the headlines.

    However, even in your poignant piece decrying the politicization of human tragedy you couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a swipe at conservatives. You wrote,”Randy, Susie, our son – these are the faces of the ‘leeches’ who live off the public dole the right labels as a problem.” No one I have ever known or encountered has characterized people such as Mr. Bell or your ex-wife as “leeches” and for you to include such a politically charged phrase negates the entire point of your piece.

    My heart goes out to your family and the Bell family and I thank you for sharing your insight. In addition to raising awareness their issues your post is an excellent illustration of how difficult it is to avoid using such tragedy as “fodder for policy wank” even when you have correctly identified that as a problem.

  8. hewhoone says:

    John- Yes I’ve been reading this blog on every topic for many years even though I rarely take the time to comment. And I agree with Rick’s premise that both sides too often politicize every thing. My point is simply that an otherwise excellent post was marred by a questionable swipe at “those on the right”.

    I’m not trying to politicize this any further. Just thought it was a relevant observation that no one else had remarked about.

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