Vindy, WFMJ health care event gets personal

By Todd Franko

The current debate regarding health-care reform in the U.S. is an intense churn through public policy, fiscal theories and personal convictions.

The Vindicator and WFMJ Channel 21 will have a unique discussion Monday night between Mahoning Valley citizens and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan.

Ryan of Niles, D-17th, will field questions and concerns from an audience of more than 100 citizens for 90 minutes. It will be televised live on WFMJ.

The event is similar to sessions you’ve seen across the country that have become great TV news fodder due to the yelling, screaming and often unruly nature of the crowd.

That is where we hope we’ve learned from those events. We asked Valley residents to go online at and offer their concerns, their desired question and any personal incident regarding health-care reform.

From those surveys, we’ve invited a diverse group of residents who will bring to the table a 360-degree look at health care. And as it’s an invite event, our hope is that “invite” conveys a sense of civility as the group engages one another and the congressman.

While politicians have taken to podiums with policy ambiguities or scare terms, the real impact of our U.S. health-care challenge comes from us — our own instances as well as our neighbors’ instances.

I pulled several examples from the surveys to show some of the dilemmas Valley residents face.

A Boardman businessman:

I am a cancer survivor. My father is also. My grown kids are at risk, yet we all avoid routine tests that could prevent a serious illness because our deductibles are so high. It’s ridiculous and risky.

A football dad:

My youngest son has Type 1 juvenile diabetes. He is 24 and still going to college. He fell off of my insurance coverage at age 23. He had to get a full-time job with benefits, which has set him back further in school, and it’s become a vicious cycle. I work for an international company and interact with colleagues from around the world. Their view of our system is that it is immoral.

A union retiree:

My wife had excellent care at the Cleveland Clinic because we had excellent health care provided by my union. Throughout her struggle, no treatment was denied even though she was terminally ill. Everyone deserves that type of care.

A self-employed person:

When my sister had breast cancer, her husband worked at General Motors with excellent coverage. But if I had been in the same situation, as a self-employed person with limited coverage, I would have never been able to have anywhere near the same coverage and would most likely have been bankrupt.

A school employee:

My sister always paid for her own health care and very high premiums on a beautician’s wage. She has Crohn’s disease and severe arthritis. She worked many years longer than she should have just to get to the Medicare age. That is wrong.

A Youngstown retail worker:

I was diagnosed with Sudden Unilateral Sensorineural Hearing Loss about four years ago and now have thousands of dollars in debt because my co-pays were so astronomical that I was no longer able to afford coverage.

A Trumbull County landscaper:

I have a friend who had to honestly consider whether or not chemotherapy would be worth the cost because of the rates her insurance company would charge her with and what impact this would have on her ability to financially support her children.

A teacher:

While visiting Italy, an elderly American lady in my tour group slipped off a curb and broke her ankle. She was treated promptly and efficiently in an Italian hospital at absolutely no cost. It made me sad to think that this woman was treated better in a foreign country than she was in her native country.


A loss of a job cost my family insurance. I’m still trying to recover.

A professional businesswoman:

My sister works 3 jobs — all in the health-care business — and she is unable to afford health care for herself. She is over 50 years old and has several health-care issues. When she has a major stroke and ends up in a nursing facility, it will end up costing the government way more than if she was provided basic preventive health care at a reasonable cost.

XGo to my blog on I’ll offer some more anecdotes from our surveys, including folks who offer that the system is working fine.

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