Still, when I asked if the candidates were addressing her as a voter, the first thing she brought up was healthcare. That was really bothering her. Westervelt explained that her company had recently increased deductibles for its workers. Instead of coverage with a $5000 deductible, her family will now have to satisfy a deductible of $10,000 before the policy pays. “It’s incredibly scary,” she said. “It’s awful. But it’s better than not having insurance,” she said.

The company still provides good dental and life insurance, she added, but had to make the change in healthcare to be able to keep the coverage. “Health care needs to be more affordable,” she said. She also thought there was a possibility they would have no insurance, “depending on what the government does.” What did she mean?

“Obamacare is making an impact on insurance policies,” she explained. “He’s driving the price up and insurance companies are panicking to be able to keep out of the government’s hands. I worry it might turn into socialist medicine that takes away from patient care.” Westervelt believed that another type of healthcare system would “lose the specialization we have in the states.” She had once broken her back, when she fell off a horse while fox hunting, and said she knew the value of specialists. We talked some about the overtreatment that occurs in the US. “Right now we have the right to say no to overtreatment, like physical therapy,” she said. What should Obama do with healthcare? “I don’t have an answer, but it should remain in private hands,” she said.

We got around to the election. Westervelt said she is a Republican these days, having changed her affiliation a few years ago, but she did not know whom she would vote for. She hoped that a third-party candidate might appear. Westervelt said she wouldn’t vote for Obama unless he came up with some different ideas for healthcare and the wars. She was troubled by “all the money he’s throwing away. As far as the wars, she said, “it’s time to pull out.”


Carl Burrows had come across the Missouri River from nearby Iowa to have a drink at his favorite bar in the Old Market.* There is only one bar in his town, Carter Lake, he told me, and “It’s a dive.” Burrows, who is 67, worked as a technician for the phone company and took early retirement, but works part time on a contract with his old employer. He said for now he was OK financially.

Are the candidates speaking to him? “Not really,” he replied. “The Republicans are the worst. There is no cooperation in their party. The way things are, Republicans are just awful. I just don’t want Romney.”

Still, though Burrows said he was a Democrat, he is still not sure he will vote for Obama. He doesn’t really know why. Burrows does have some sympathy for the president, though. “Everything he has tried to do gets shot down. I personally don’t doubt him. I do think he’d do fine, if they gave him a chance.”


I wandered into Aromas Coffeehouse and saw a man with gray hair working at his laptop. I told him I was doing man-on-the-street interviews with ordinary people. He told me he was not an ordinary person but was a defeated politician who had just lost the Democratic primary race for the Senate to former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey. Steve Lustgarten, 60, said he had jumped into the race three months ago with no expectation he would win. He had returned to Omaha from Los Angeles, where he had been in the film distribution business, and decided to try politics. The experience? In a word, he said, “sordid.” “Nothing about Bob Kerrey sits well with me,” he said. But Kerrey had name recognition, Lustgarten said, and voter turnout in the primary was low.

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.