We the People: Health Care

VIROQUA, Wis.– Whether you agree with the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold President Obama’s health care law or not, it has no doubt sparked a debate in this country about health care reform.

We continue our series of reports with the “We the People” project, taking a closer look at the big issues this election year through the eyes of people from diverse backgrounds around the state. This month we’re tackling the topic of the health care.

While health care reform is being framed as a political issue right now, it’s also a very personal one. And even those who haven’t been forced to choose between food and medicine or been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, have an opinion about our health care system.

As a volunteer driver with the Vernon County Unit on Aging, Palmer Hoffland sees our health care dollars in action. “If someone needs a ride to see the doctor or some kind of appointment, the lady from the Unit on Aging calls one of us and sees if we can make the trip,” says Palmer.

On the day we caught up with him, he was driving a man from his home near Chaseburg to the clinic in Viroqua for therapy following heart surgery. Luckily, Palmer and his wife Martha, have been able to steer clear of any major medical problems themselves. “We’ve been very fortunate. Our medical costs are not a very big part of our life.”


At 71 years old, Palmer has been on Medicare for the past six years. And while it’s helped keep his medical expenses in check, he’s surprised by just how much. “My health cost is less expensive now than when I was working. Medicare and what I use, I don’t use supplemental insurance, but I use another plan, but I pay very, very little for my health insurance.”

While Palmer believes Obamacare might be helpful for some people, he thinks in his case, it won’t be as good as what he currently has. But he’s also not convinced sweeping health care reform was needed in the first place. Palmer says, “it just doesn’t seem to me that this problem was as big and as present until the Obamacare issue came up and then that made it sound to us like we have a huge problem here folks and we better take care of it. Quite frankly, I didn’t see that problem around.”

He also questions one big plan that applies to everybody in the country. “In other words, lets not mess with the people who have insurance and it’s all taken care of and it’s not been a problem, let’s come up with something different to help, if it is in fact 30 million, it’s got to be cheaper to help 30 million than 350 million.”

We the People participant Jim Klarich from the Madison area is also a retiree and on Medicare. He believes Obamacare is a step in the right direction. “I think everybody should have car insurance, I think everybody should have health insurance and it’s all about being responsible and I think at times you need the government to step in and say this is what we’re doing for your good.”

Klarich also says it’s the people who choose not to have health insurance that are costing him and everyone else more. “As you get poeple going to the emergency room for health care, my insurance costs rise and I don’t want to see that.”

Back in Viroqua, Palmer stands by the notion that less is more when it comes to government involvement in our health care system. “There’s a lot of benefits out there for people who need help, besides the federal government helping them out.”