Why the ‘Greatest Generation’ Is Bagging Groceries (No, It’s Not Because of Taxes)

By Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, AJN interim editor-in-chief

In surfing the Web Monday, I came across this interesting tidbit on the blog run by Gary Schwitzer, creator of HealthNewsReview.org, a site devoted to assessing the accuracy of health news coverage. He quoted statistics from a report  by the Center for Public Integrity, which claims that “there are eight lobbyists for every member of Congress.” The number of lobbyists went from about 1,400 in the first quarter of 2009 to nearly 3,700 by year’s end. 

I see elderly people in the supermarket bagging groceries—some may like the company, but others are doing it to pay for medical care not covered under plans. My uncle—one of the “greatest generation”—used to cut his pills in half to make them last longer. Does this qualify as “rationing care”? Emergency rooms are full of people who waited too long to get care because they couldn’t spend the money up front; in many cases such delays end up costing both them and everyone else in the system far more than it should have. And those who oppose reform continue to proclaim that we need to tread carefully because we don’t want to ruin “the greatest health care system in the world.”

Yes, if you’re a government official, you do have great health care (and, in most cases, the ready cash to go to any out-of-network specialist you’d like even if your plan lets you down). (I made this point in AJN’s August editorial: members of Congress shouldn’t have a better health plan than the people they represent.)

It’s all very disheartening—at least today, in the dirty, prolonged third act of a snowy winter. Does the American public even stand a chance to get what they need?

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Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.


  1. Laura March 16, 2010 at 7:25 am

    I believe that a national healthcare plan would be beneficial for all. I do think there should be copays for office visits and larger ones for ER visits. When something is given to people for nothing they tend to abuse it. They may think twice about running to the doctor for every little thing if there is a copay. Also we all think a pill is the answer when some of these problems we have can be fixed with diet and exersize. There are alot of things that need work, but it is needed.

  2. Ashley March 5, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I am an RN and understand the health care system. I found myself without health insurance at one point and trying to be seen was harder than pulling teeth. I had to go to the ER.
    Our health care system is far from the best. An independent contractor, 28 year old male with HTN is denied coverage because of his “preexisting condition?” What is that? And he is left with no other option but to be uninsured.
    I am feeling pretty hopeless and disenchanted with our system. I don’t see this bill passing, and I don’t see it getting any better. (…And I’m normally an optimist). So where do we go from here?

  3. Shawn March 4, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Peggy is right – people marched against most wars, for civil rights and human rights and even animal rights. Maybe it’s because most people feel they don’t have to worry b/c they have insurance and its not until they actually need health care that they realize how bad the system is. How do those with limited education and people for whom English is not their primary language ever figure out the forms? I’m a health professional with a post-graduate education and I’m bewildered at times.

  4. pinky March 3, 2010 at 10:41 am

    True. Why aren’t we marching in the streets? Perhaps it is because our CHF won’t let us and since we are not taking the medication to fix it, it makes it hard to march.

  5. Peggy March 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    There was a lovely moment during the healthcare summit when one of the Republican participants (a doctor) stated that all Americans should have only catastrophic coverage as it would make them better “healthcare consumers.” President Obama then asked the Republican if he’d give up HIS governement run healthcare insurance…the Republican said he would and our President responded, “well, most Americans don’t make the money you do and couldn’t afford to pay the out of pocket a catastrophic policy would require.” That pretty much shut down that argument.
    I cannot believe we are not marching in the streets to demand huge reform to our system. We elect people to make our decisions for us and give them everything they need, including a high salary and really nifty benefits, including healthcare- all provided by us, the taxpayers and yet they fight to allow us to have access to the same benefits…

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