Saturday, August 12, 2006

A Hole in Health Care

Posted By on Sat, Aug 12, 2006 at 4:24 PM

I met with Gulf War veteran Scott Merk on Thursday at a local coffee shop. Six years ago, he was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease affecting the lumbar and sacral veterbrae in his spine, his knees, his wrists and his shoulders. Scott is unable to work; I saw that he moved deliberately with the help of a cane. He looked like he was in pain.

The Merks spend about $750 a month on health care that isn’t covered by the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). They’ve explored other options, but he and his family find themselves in one of those “holes” in which they make too much to receive some benefits, and too little to receive others. His wife, Brenda, makes between $800 and $1,100 a month taking reservations for an airline.

"There’s a certain class of American citizen that can be completely told, ‘We can’t help you,'" Scott said. "I thought no matter how bad things got, there’d always be something there."

He said they’ve drained their savings and retirement accounts and sold most of their belongings to make ends meet. They've also tried to shield their son from the gravity of the situation. Come Tuesday, however, they’re going to be evicted from their home. The Merks have packed the few things they have remaining in preparation for that day, Scott said. He broke down in tears while telling me that he has tried to make lodging arrangements for his son while he and his wife are on the street.

Desperate and seeing no other options, Scott and Brenda set up a Web page asking for donations. You may not agree with this approach (and indeed, Scott says they’ve gotten plenty of "cruel" hate mail from people), but it’s worth a visit. You might feel motivated to donate some money or offer some other form of help.

The Weekly will run the coffee shop interview with Scott in the T Q&A section of the Aug. 17 issue, two days after the family stands to be evicted.

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