For those of us who visit small country stores, it has become a far too often occurrence to see an empty gallon pickle jar sitting on the checkout counter. Usually the pickle jar has a label attached to it showing the picture of a hardworking person who has encountered a medical tragedy such as cancer, COVID-19, or an accident. The person whose picture is on the pickle jar is trying to raise money to pay their medical bills, many times totaling in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. In recent years, we have also seen the rise of “electronic pickle jars”, GoFundMe pages for people trying to raise money to pay their medical bills.
When those medical bills—many times totaling sums that no working person could pay in 5 lifetimes—are not paid, people lose their homes (and their children lose their inheritance). For most of us, our home represents our biggest investment and the culmination of decades of payments. It represents security.
How can it be in 2021, in the most wealthy nation in the history of mankind, that we reduce people to using pickle jars to fund their health care? How can it be that we allow people to work hard all their lives, pay their mortgage payments monthly for 30 years, finally own their home, just to lose it along with their children’s inheritance because of cancer, COVID-19, etc— something over which they have no control?
Till our healthcare system is fixed and affordable healthcare becomes accessible to everyone, I propose we do something to sure no one loses their home to medical bills from cancer, COVID, and other serious diseases.
I would introduce legislation that would preclude liens created by medical bills from attaching to a person’s primary residence. In other words, no cancer patient would ever again have to live in fear of losing their home while undergoing his chemotherapy/radiation treatments.
I’ll fight to fix our healthcare system so that everyone has access to affordable health care. But that will take time. This proposal in my eyes is more than fair-- both legally and morally.
The house I grew up in did not have air conditioning. On those hot summer days in the 60's when I was a youngster, my family and I would often seek the cooling shade of a 60 year old cherry tree in our backyard. My father stressed to my sister and I that we were able to enjoy the cooling shade (and my mother's wonderful cherry cobbler) because someone had the forethought to plant a cherry tree sapling 60 years earlier, even though it would take many years later before you could enjoy its shade and fruit. Growing up on a farm in the Shenandoah Valley during the Great Depression, my father understood
acutely the need for forethought and to plan ahead.
To impress this lesson upon his young children, my father took my sister and I out into the woods to find three maple saplings to transplant into our yard, one
for each of us. We did so and learned that our labor did not pay off immediately, but as we grew older and bigger so did the trees. By the time 20 years or so passed, the trees we planted had blossomed into nice shade trees that would provide shade not only for us, but for many others who would come after us.
Poetically, about 25 years after we planted those trees, my father and I had our last long, in depth conversation under the maple shade tree we had planted together before he succumbed to cancer just a few days later.
Besides practicing law for 36 years, I also farmed in the McGaheysville area. A farmer quickly realizes that to run a strong farming operation you need good infrastructure: fences, barns, loafing sheds, cattle chutes, milking parlor,
strong ground, etc. But you realize that you can not update/replace all your infrastructure at once because it is both cost and time prohibitive. What you do learn quickly, however, is that if you improve and add to your operation's
infrastructure a little every year, your operation's infrastructure grows more robust and can handle the underlying growth as your operation grows in size.
Consider Interstate 81. Most people knew 20 years ago that we had a capacity problem, and that the problem was getting worse with each passing year. Today, I doubt a week goes by without there being wrecks that cause significant problems for all of us--missing a child's school event while tied up in traffic, being late for dinner, and in some cases being seriously injured or even killed.
If we would have made some improvements to Interstate 81 each and every year for the last 20 years, it would not be the problem it is today. Slow and steady wins the race.
Look also to the lack of rural broadband. The COVID-19 crisis showed the importance of having access to internet, yet our area has still made no progress towards greater accessibility to broadband in rural areas.
The lessons of the cherry tree and farming are just as relevant and important today for our infrastructure needs (roads, broadband, water and sewer, education, etc.). We need elected officials who will govern with forethought, and will plan for the future-- not just for today. After all, Infrastructure pays long term dividends for a community and is critical to attracting good, high paying jobs to our area.