Michelman’s conclusion: the situation won’t change for anyone until political leaders get serious about comprehensive reform. “By comprehensive, I mean that piecemeal approaches will not work—not economically, not morally,” she says. But piecemeal is what the country is likely to get. Some enterprising reporter needs to take these stories further and show exactly how piecemeal will or won’t help those falling through the cracks.

How would a public plan option (seemingly the only thing talked about these days) help people like Roy Scales—or would it? Would it solve the dilemma of paying for long-term care that Michelman’s husband needs? FYI: No one has talked at all about long-term care during the presidential campaign or afterward. It’s like the need for it doesn’t exist in the political mind. Why isn’t the COBRA provision in the stimulus package helping middle class folks laid off in Las Vegas? Will reform actually change the way medical care is financed, to ease the budget squeeze on safety net hospitals? How will reform deal with the growing problem of underinsurance?

The pols and special interests have been touting the notion that Americans who have insurance can keep what they have. But do Americans really want to keep those policies that send them to the poor house when serious illness happens? These are a few of the things the public needs to know to engage in a debate that will certainly affect them.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.