Numbers Game

HMO penny-pinching threatens a long-term romance

Though she is willing to go to great lengths to resolve their problems (including sharing her story with newspaper reporters), Anna Fay is dismayed by the nitty-gritty dollars-and-cents discussions about her husband. "I don't like to get into whether it's cheaper or not cheaper," she says, staring out into the backyard. "My feeling is that we put money where our priorities are. I know all the arguments about how there is a limit to the amount of money we can spend on health care, but I also know there are many, many ways that we can reduce the costs of health care without compromising people's lives. Not that anyone cares, but Lou does have a life. He's not a thing. He's a person."

Lou can't articulate his feelings about the situation as well. His disease has progressed to the point where he must intensely focus his strength and concentration just to make a labored sound. Sometimes, in fact, only Anna can make out his slurred speech. But when he is asked how he feels about his situation, his response is clear even to the unfamiliar ear: "Stay here," he says, looking over at Anna. "By all means."

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