Then my phone dinged.
It was a message from the daughter of one of our school district’s custodians. Fifteen of our 22 custodians were laid off this week since the summer work is completed and there really isn’t much that will need to be done. The problem is, being laid off doesn’t just mean a lack of a paycheck, it means a lack of benefits. This particular custodian, Larry, has ongoing health issues that requires him to have daily dialysis. His routine is basically to work all day caring for the students of South Park School District, and then go home and hook himself up to a dialysis machine for literally hours.
Larry has been on a transplant list, but we all know that it can take years to find a donor. Despite working 20 years in the district and being one of the higher ranking custodians, he has found himself with no salary or insurance. Without some type of rapid action, Larry will not have the necessary, life sustaining medicine and will pass away. It is not a matter of if, but rather a matter of when. I don’t know how his three children and widow will explain this to his six grandchildren that will be left behind.
Last night after learning all of this information, there was no chance of me sleeping. My mind was racing trying to figure out what could be done for Larry, and what could be done for our country to protect the millions of people who are out of work but have health issues. People want to say the idea of “Medicare of All” is some outrageous and unrealistic ideology. What I find outrageous is that in a country as wonderful as the United States, we allow people to die because they don’t have insurance.
From medications cost, to nursing homes, to routine visits, medical care without insurance is just not affordable for the average person. Yes, Larry can probably apply for COBRA or some other type of plan. But even those “fall back” plans are unrealistically expensive – especially for somebody who is out of work. There is also a question of who will give Larry coverage knowing how sick he is. However, there is a very loud clock ticking for Larry if he doesn’t get an answer right now.
The other issue that this situation brings to the forefront is the funding gaps that our schools face. The COVID pandemic sent countless schools scrambling to not only educate students remotely, but find money for unexpected costs. You often hear that 40% of Americans are one paycheck away from poverty. The current state of our nation has made it clear that many of our school districts are not much better off.
These types of issues are why I am running for office. Sleepless nights worrying and Facebook message suggestions to a worried daughter aren’t action enough. Let’s pray for Larry and make meaningful change happen!