Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Troubling Story

"It's hard being a member of the mean party," says Bob Borochoff, a lifelong Republican who was on Capitol Hill this week asking legislators to support bills that will benefit disabled people like his son, Bradley, and returning veterans suffering from mental illness. There's no shortage of horror stories when it comes to health insurance, but Borochoff's tale on behalf of his son took him on a political journey, as well, and his disillusionment is emblematic of the uphill climb the Republicans face in November.

Borochoff's tidy life as a restauranteur and happily married father of three, including newborn twins, was shattered in 1988 when his 3-year-old son Bradley was bitten by a mosquito, which triggered encephalitis, a swelling of the brain and then uncontrollable seizures, leaving him disabled. The family's insurance premiums jumped from $300 a month to $2,500 a month. Borochoff hired a lawyer to fight the increase but was told he had no choice, so he paid the premiums. A year later, a notice arrived in the mail that the insurance company was canceling his policy along with coverage for his 100 employees.

Well known in the restaurant business in Houston, Borochoff had political connections, and he worked every one of them, even securing an audience, along with other small-business owners, in the White House with President George H.W. Bush, all to no avail. In desperation, he contacted Sen. Ted Kennedy, telling a Houston Post reporter at the time, "I can't stand Ted Kennedy," but he hoped he would help. Kennedy intervened and the next day Borochoff got a call saying the insurance for him and his employees would be reinstated. It would be nice if the story ended there, but Bradley's care became more expensive. Medicine not covered by insurance was $2,800 a month. Borochoff's wife divorced him and in 2003, a single father with three teenagers, he filed for personal bankruptcy and received food stamps for six months.

Kennedy's office contacted him several times over the years asking him to testify, which he did only rarely because he didn't always agree with Kennedy's approach. He was once a strong backer of Tom DeLay, and he counts himself a personal friend of DeLay's successor and the two other Republican congressmen representing the Houston area. But he's angry with them and his party over health care and immigration, and that's what brings him to Washington. He's rebuilt his life and now manages four Tex-Mex restaurants in Houston. He serves on the board of a local agency that provides mental-health services to the poor, and the tug he feels is reflected in his political donations; once almost exclusively to Republicans, now he estimates 40 percent goes to Democrats.

This is one man's story but in a sense he is everyman.

That's from Eleanor Clift's latest column. (HT:

I'm old-fashioned. I'm used to my leftist tales of American despair to be about dead children and bosses reduced to living under bridges.

Here's a guy, who gets hit with a tragic illness in his child. Bills mount up. His child gets the treatment. He gets divorced. His business collapes. He files for bankruptcy and wipes out the medical debt. He resumes his career as an entrepreneur. The boy lives.

He's mad as hell, and he's not going to take it anymore.

The traditional notion of America the Land of Promise, where a hard-worker can fulfill his obligations in life without some despot on his back, is pretty much dead to half (or more) of the country. Somebody Else ought to be helping, probably the State. It's not fair that a Borochoff should pay his own way, or, stumbling, be forced into bankruptcy. It should have been taken care off. All the other Borochoff's ought to have been bled a little to handle it.

Who's opposing this sort of thinking these days? Even Mitt Romney, the Businessman's Republican, had the bright idea of forcing everybody in Massachusetts to buy insurance they didn't need so there was sufficient profits in the kitty to pay out everybody.

That kind of robbery isn't sustainable. TAANSTAFL, and we forget that at our peril.

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