Thursday, while I was in the drugstore, picking up a prescription for S., I ended up in a conversation about healthcare reform with the pharmacist.
It was early evening, a time when most of the people in our area were at home going over homework with their kids while they did the dishes, or, if they were empty nesters, were likely to be dining at the local restaurants, so the store was practically empty, with only one or two other customers.
I walked up to the counter at the rear of the store and asked for S.'s prescription. The pharmacist retrieved the package from a plastic bin and read a note stapled to the front of it. "We need to update her insurance."
"Okay. Is it something she needs to do to get this prescription?"
"Well, without the prescription I don't know what the co-pay will be," she said, peering back at the bag as she spoke. "But this is pretty inexpensive - it only costs eleven dollars to begin with."
"Alright," I said, "well, go ahead and give it to me. She changed jobs a few months ago and probably didn't get you the new card."
The pharmacist's eyes brimmed with concern. "She's lucky - I see a lot of people who come in here who've been out of work for six months."
We went back and forth with a few of the local neighborhood jobless horror stories while I signed and clicked and signed all the disclosures you have to acknowledge these days when you are getting prescription medication. She gave me my bag and my receipt. I turned to leave, then hesitated.
"Do you mind if I ask you a question about healthcare reform?"
She shrugged her shoulders in the affirmative.
"So what do you think?"
The concern seemed to drain out of her eyes, replaced by something harder. "I can't support it," she said as she squared her shoulders and her eyes sharpened. "I'm against socialized medicine."
"Really?" I said. "So you're happy with what we have now."
"I think there needs to be a change. There's definitely something wrong with what we have now. But I don't want the government running healthcare."
"Well, if you can keep the plan you have if you like it, and you don't have to get the government option unless you want it, how do you figure that's socialized medicine?"
"They're going to ration healthcare," she said. "They're going to tell seventy year olds who need transplants that they're too old - that the thirty year old who needs a transplant deserves it more than they do."
I hadn't seen anyone look that smugly self satisfied after answering a question since Donald Trump's last TV interview. It was hard for me to fathom that this woman, who had dispensed drugs to our household for the last three years, could be so vehemently opposed to a more inclusive healthcare effort that she would stoop to parroting the stuff she heard on the radio to explain her position - especially when she worked in the healthcare field everyday, and was likely to directly impacted by any changes.
We talked for another five or six minutes about the things she believed Barack Obama was trying to do to America. About how much less her father was going to get from a government plan than the private plan he was enrolled in as a retiree. About the fact that neither of us had taken the time to sit down an actually read the bill we were at odds about for ourselves, the same way people signed the paperwork for their home mortgage without actually reading the documents word for word.
All the while, I thought about those unfortunate souls who were jobless that the pharmacist had shown so much compassion about. When I wondered out loud "what about those people without jobs who come in here for medicine - what are they going to do about their pre-existing conditions when they finally get back to work?"
Her eyes widened and her shoulders shrugged. "I said what we have isn't working."