Something for pols to chew on at healthcare summit

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Politicians love to toss out stories of individuals adversely affected by the healthcare system. You always hear them say, “I've heard from a family in Michigan that lost its insurance,” or “There's a man in Macomb who can't afford a new hip” or “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…”

But while watching the healthcare reform summit on Thursday, I heard a particularly macabre story from New York Democratic Representative Louise Slaughter.

Just before the gathering split for lunch (appropriately enough), Slaughter told the attendees of a poor older woman in her district who was so desperate for dentures, she literally took a pair out of the mouth of her recently deceased sister.

Personally, I'm always a bit skeptical of these stories. Slaughter herself acknowledged the incredible nature of the story, but swore to its validity. True or not: Ewww.

But true or not, the story also highlights the continued need to provide adequate services and supports for the elderly.

It seems as if almost every day we come across stories of state budget troubles, bankrupt Medicaid programs and proposed cuts to senior services. And the first services to go are usually services such as vision and, as the woman in Rep. Slaughter's story can clearly attest, dental.

We all know what a troubled state our economy is in, and we all know that there are going to be some tough choices ahead. And a one-day televised bipartisan summit to discuss the entire healthcare reform bill probably isn't going to have much effect.

But hopefully, stories like Slaughter's will keep some of the focus on the seniors who are usually the first to lose out when the Medicaid program gets cut.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.

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