Juggling Medical Bills And A Farm In Minnesota Danielle Rodgers of Mahtowa, Minn. discusses how her family is braving the tough economy. Rodgers and her sick husband are trying to figure out how to pay big medical bills, support four children and maintain their 400-acre farm.
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Juggling Medical Bills And A Farm In Minnesota

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Juggling Medical Bills And A Farm In Minnesota

Juggling Medical Bills And A Farm In Minnesota

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This is Day to Day. I'm Alex Cohen.


And I'm Madeleine Brand. The banking industry is getting a massive bailout. There's talk of help for the auto industry, too, and that has some of you writing in to ask, where is my rescue package. You wrote in because we asked you to tell us how you're doing financially. It's part of our series we're calling the Real Economy.

We received one email from Danielle Rodgers in Mahtowa, Minnesota, and she joins us now. Welcome to the program, Danielle.

Ms. DANIELLE RODGERS: Thank you, good morning.

BRAND: And what station do you hear us on there?

Ms. RODGERS: WSCN, 100.5, out of Duluth-Superior.

BRAND: And when you wrote in, you said you were pretty worried about your financial situation. What are you so worried about?

Ms. RODGERS: Well, we have four kids - one in college and three teenagers who are close to college, within three years of college, and, of course, all their college funds just took a big hit. My husband is going to be 54 in December, and so he's getting close to retirement, and his health is quite poor. So, we're concerned about how to have him retire with less money and still be able to afford the healthcare that he needs.

BRAND: And why does he need a lot of healthcare?

Ms. RODGERS: Well, in the past, he's had cancer twice and several other serious medical occurrences and at the present time, is waiting for a kidney transplant.

BRAND: Wow. And how much a month do you spend on medical bills?

Ms. RODGERS: We figured somewhere between - just the bill part, including prescription drugs, somewhere around 500 any given month unless there's a crisis. That's just on the average if everything's going well.

BRAND: Right.

Ms. RODGERS: And then, of course, the insurance policy premium each month is around $750 in addition to that $500 we pay.

BRAND: So, you're spending 12 to $1,300 a month on healthcare?


BRAND: And what do both of you do for a living?

Ms. RODGERS: I am a registered nurse at a hospital in Duluth, and my husband is a carpenter, and we farm, also.

BRAND: So, you live on a farm?

Ms. RODGERS: Yes, we live on a 400-acre beef, chicken farm.

BRAND: And how is the farm doing?

Ms. RODGERS: The farm is holding - we're holding, but with the price of gas and feed, it's not a moneymaker anymore.

BRAND: So, do you live off the food on the farm?

Ms. RODGERS: We do eat our chickens and beef and have a large garden. We make maple syrup and cider out of the things have here. So, we try to take as much from the land that we can use for ourselves to help supplement our income. But selling beef and eggs is not making us any money right now, but it sure tastes good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: And your husband, you said, is in construction?

Ms. RODGERS: Yes, he's in commercial construction.

BRAND: And that industry is taking a big hit.

Ms. RODGERS: We wonder every day if he's going to be employed the following week. That, with the fact he's sick, puts us sitting right on the fence as to whether we're going to come out of this OK because, if he loses his job, he loses his insurance within a short amount of time. If he's sick for a long period of time, we're not going to be able to afford that either, and luckily, you know, being a registered nurse, my job looks pretty good.

BRAND: Yeah.

Ms. RODGERS: So, I'd be working more. And as for the kids and college, you know, I'm sorry for them, but they're going to have to take out loans to make a go of it if they - or get scholarships if they can because there's no way we're going to have enough money left in their accounts to pay for that.

BRAND: And what about you and your husband? Do you talk about the economy and your financial situation every night after the kids go to bed?

Ms. RODGERS: You know, we don't. But we do - I mean, we do worry about what would happen if. Every decision that we make at our house, whether it's to buy a car or to, you know, go on vacation, which we haven't done, is always based on the premise, can we afford that if. And mostly, it's if Mike gets sick, or if Mike's off work, or if Mike dies - can we afford this? And we're OK with that. We sleep OK because this is not the worst that we've ever lived through.

BRAND: You've lived through worse?

Ms. RODGERS: Well, with Mike's health and...

BRAND: Yeah.

Ms. RODGERS: You know, he's certainly been told he's going to die at least twice already, and those things are worse than, well gosh, no, you know, no diet coke today or whatever it might be. It's not the worst we've had to deal with. It certainly isn't the greatest thing, but we're probably going to be OK in the end. And even if we start losing stuff because of the economy. and we still have each other, and we're still going to be OK.

BRAND: Danielle, thank you very much.

Ms. RODGERS: You're very welcome.

BRAND: That's Danielle Rodgers. She spoke to us from her farm in Mahtowa, Minnesota.

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