Seniors' choice: buy pills or pay bills

For many seniors in Huron County, it is a race between health care and destiny. "Every time I get the (Social Security) cost of living increase," retired postal carrier Ray Kramer said, "I lose about 50 bucks." Most seniors are finding that for every dollar their income increases, their health-care costs increase more.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 24, 2010

For many seniors in Huron County, it is a race between health care and destiny. "Every time I get the (Social Security) cost of living increase," retired postal carrier Ray Kramer said, "I lose about 50 bucks."

Most seniors are finding that for every dollar their income increases, their health-care costs increase more.

It makes living on a tight budget that much harder, and, after all, everything else is getting more expensive that is the idea behind "cost of living" increases.

"You take care of the bills as they come," he said, and so far, he's been able to manage.

Is he afraid he's going to hit a point where he can't make ends meet any more?

"I'm 80," Kramer responded.

These days seniors may have savings, pensions and Social Security to help them take care of themselves, but they also have to carry two levels of insurance. First there's Medicare, but then you have to find something to cover what Medicare doesn't.

Sometimes, you don't have the money to meet all your obligations, said one 73 1/2-year-old widow who preferred not to be named. This month, she doesn't have the money to pay her taxes. "I'm not sure where they're going to come from, it's that simple," she said.

And that's on top of the fact that it's February and heating and electrical bills couldn't get any higher.

"It's kind of bleak."

So what do you do?

"You eat differently and so forth," she said.

You don't buy shoes or dresses those are things you just don't even think of.

In her case, she has been helped by some income-producing property she owned, but expenses and taxes have increased to the point where she's going to have to sell it. It's not really worth owning it anymore.

She doesn't want riches from the sale that just brings more trouble. She just hopes she gets enough to get by on her own, she will not accept aid.

When you do that, she said, somebody has to pay for it and they can't afford it any better than we can.

"If I can't provide for myself, that's it," she said.

Virginia Lynch, 79, was recently widowed. Her husband used to take care of these things. Now, she has to do it. It's very difficult she said, "all the questions" she has.

She echoed what everyone else said. "We're all on the same page," she said.

But overall, "I'm managing," she said. "It's not easy," she added, and "when it's gone, it's gone." Though, she said, "I hope it never gets to that point."

All feel that the situation is untenable and that the government has not done its job well enough.

"I'm really hoping the people we elect will do the right thing for people," Lynch said.

"They don't know what they're doing," Kramer said, though he also said, "the system didn't hurt me any."

But they also agreed that, as the other woman put it, they "don't know what the solution is."

Whatever the bigger picture is, most take a philosophical attitude.

Between it all, Kramer said, "I'm gettin' by."