Nori’s story

My name is Laura Velkei and I want you to meet my neighbor, Nori.

A bright and fiercely independent woman, Nori put herself through college and made a modest living as a jewelry designer – just enough for a small Norione-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles, plus a few extras.

When I met her 11 years ago, she had already become one of the  50 million Americans without health coverage.  After many years struggling with failing kidney’s,  Nori’s body gave out. No longer able to work or pay for health insurance, Nori maxed out her credit cards and sold off anything of value she had.

In 2001, while driving to the market  in her old VW bug, Nori suddenly lost her vision and collided head on into oncoming traffic.  She was rushed to the hospital, her face crushed. Internal injuries destroyed what was left of her kidneys and forced her into dialysis 3-4 times a week for the remainder of her life. She never regained her sight.

Since then, friends help where we can. I have taken over organizing her bills and dealing with the collection agencies.  We were able to get her a few hours of in-home care after endless calls to social service agencies.  But at the end of the day Nori is forced to live on a grand total of $890 a month.  $561.00 comes from Social Security and the rest from State Disability Insurance.

So what does that 890.00 look like?  After paying $646 a month for rent, utilities, and weekly ambulance service for dialysis treatments, Nori is left with only $8.13 a day for everything else; food, toiletries, clothing, and whatever household supplies she needs.  To make matters worse, Sacramento recently cut her benefits by $20.00 a month, leaving her only $7.46 a day to live on.

Let me repeat that. $7.46 a day

Last week Nori called me in tears, saying the Governor was cutting off the state portion of her monthly SSI check. She was terrified she would lose her home of 25 years and end up in the street.

“That’s not possible”, I said, “Let me look into it.”

To my horror, not only was it possible, it was true.  In July, the State of California began issuing IOU’s  to recipients of Supplemental Security Income. The Federal Government stepped and in agreed to fill the gap for July and August, but after that, Nori’s income will drop by a third.  The $561 she would be left with will not even cover her rent.

How is this possible? I look at Nori and think, “That could be me.” One accident away from becoming profoundly dependent on a system more interested in politics than people.

Who speaks for Nori? 
Not the Republican legislative minority who would rather cut the funds of a blind woman on dialysis than put a tax on oil revenues and cigarettes

Who speaks for Nori?
Not Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said of the budget stalemate in California,  “Someone else might walk out of here every day depressed, but I don’t walk out of here depressed,” Whatever happens, “I will sit down in my Jacuzzi tonight. I’m going to lay back with a stogie.” This while Nori’s body must take on the added stress from fear of losing her home.

Who speaks for Nori?
Not the Health Insurance Industry, spending $1.4 million dollars a day to strangle comprehensive health care reform.

Who speaks for Nori? 
Not Senator Dianne Feinstein, who recently stated passing health care reform in the Senate was too “difficult.”

Who speaks for Nori?

WE speak for Nori.


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