tcr-110819-PulseoftheVoters

Marie Zyren poses for a portrait at the Senior Center in Traverse City on Thursday, Nov. 7.

TRAVERSE CITY — At 90, Marie Zyren supplements her health plan — a mix of Medicare, supplemental coverage from Blue Cross Blue Shield and Part D for her prescriptions — with a low-sodium diet and twice-per-week gym classes.

Andrew Honrath, 56 years her junior, crosses his fingers.

Honrath, a 34-year-old Traverse City resident, enjoys health insurance through his new job. The policy kicked in Nov. 1, and for him, it’s an unfamiliar sense of security — for the past 12 years, he’s simply gone without.

“I have not been to a doctor, like a regular physician, in years,” Honrath said. “For the most part I feel like I’m healthy, and I don’t worry too much about it.

“I guess I’d wish I would have, you know, if (I) got hit by a car or something,” he added with a laugh.

Preventative care isn’t part of his equation, and Honrath meets the concept of catastrophic care with a shrug of the shoulders. He counts just a handful of sign-in sheets, paper-covered seats and tongue suppressors in the past decade, during more desperate trips to a walk-in clinic.

“It was a few hundred (dollars) to go,” Honrath said. “The way I see it, do I pay $200-300 a month for insurance, or do I pay a couple hundred the few times I go?”

Still, he makes sure his young daughter is covered through her mother’s workplace plan. It’ll be a big help in a few years, he said, when she needs braces.

Honrath’s not alone.

Nearly half of Americans put off doctor’s visits because of cost, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study — and climbing deductibles and piling medical bills keep citizens of the country with the world’s highest health costs up at night.

More than 25 percent of Kaiser’s respondents said they were forced to cut back spending on food, clothing and other basics to cover health care costs.

It’s a problem Zyren fears has no solution.

She’s not so worried about her own care — Medicare works well for her, and the premiums taken from her social security check are affordable. They keep her pacemaker working and her prescriptions filled.

It’s stories like Honrath’s that concern her.

“There’s so many young families who can’t afford insurance at all, and that’s very sad,” Zyren said. “It’s hard to see young people struggling with their children and not being able to get them the things that are really necessary.”

Talk of single-payer systems and Medicare-For-All don’t ease her worries — Zyren doesn’t see a way to make them affordable. But something needs to be done for families — and about drug prices and health care costs, she says.

“I think people who are ill should be taken care of. And it’s my firm belief that if people in Washington would get together and not be fighting each other constantly, they could get something done,” Zyren said. “I think all the money that’s wasted in Washington could surely be spent much better for young families.”

As a grandmother to five and great-grandmother to four, she keeps a close eye on the matter.

“I hope that they will grow up in a world that’s more settled,” Zyren said.

Recommended for you