Dear Annie: I was absolutely appalled by the letter from "Not an Enabler," the pharmacist's wife who said, "If an adult is hungry, homeless or uninsured in this country, they have made a conscious decision to remain so."

There are many reasons why people need help. Some may be disabled or mentally ill, which prevents them from working, or they simply cannot afford the premiums. Not everyone is equally successful or healthy. Many homeless people have suffered from domestic violence and mental illness, and a good number are veterans who have served our country.

—Ohio Social Worker

Dear Ohio: We're with you. That letter certainly hit a sore spot. Here's a sampling of the more printable responses:

From Texas: You're a typical liberal destroying America. God helps those who help themselves.

Chicago: I am a 36-year-old woman who has had brain cancer. I was insured, but the stress of my illness caused my husband to divorce me and I lost my coverage. I couldn't afford COBRA at $21,600 per year. For 18 months, I went through all the proper steps to get onto my state plan, only to be told I needed to speak with someone else in a different program. I'm still waiting.

South Carolina: No one told the single mother to bear the child. Yes, it could have been a child of rape, but she had options before giving birth. Struggling is good for the soul.

Colorado: I am a mother of three kids. My husband works full time, but his job doesn't offer insurance and we make too much to get help from the system. This government is really not working for families.

Iowa: Last summer, my 61-year-old mother was laid off from her job and left with no health insurance after her COBRA ran out. Then this lifelong hardworking mother of four was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and bladder cancer and was denied private insurance. I resent "Not an Enabler" implying that my mother would take advantage of the government. I hope she never sees her husband or children fall on hard times. Maybe her husband could fill a prescription: Take two teaspoons of honey per day to sweeten up your disposition. Possible side effect: May cause you to lose the bitter taste in your mouth.

New York: After taxes and insurance, my income last year was less than $24,000. I also work two part-time jobs at night and on weekends. But I don't dare do without insurance. One of my kids is a survivor of childhood cancer and another was hospitalized due to an illness that could flare up again. Two months ago, I finally paid off the last of the medical bills. The kids are now on school insurance.

North Carolina: I am a middle-aged woman with a middle-class income and two college degrees. My husband is self-employed so I carry him on my insurance. I recently changed jobs and had to pay for our health insurance for several months. The bill ate up half my pay. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see that a single parent or a couple whose employers don't offer insurance might have a tough time.

St. Louis: I'm 20 years old, going to college, paying all my expenses and simply cannot afford health insurance. Well, I could if I stopped eating, but I'm not planning on it.

Kansas: My husband was laid off at age 57. He was too old to get a job and too young for Social Security. We now have expensive insurance with a $2,500 deductible, renewing every six months. I was turned down by several companies because of a pre-existing condition that requires medication. And forget about tests like a colonoscopy that may save our lives.

North Carolina: I read this letter after being denied benefits and with mounting medical bills from an on-the-job injury that caused my termination. I was told to seek help from religious organizations. All this after paying taxes since age 14.

Dear Annie: I have a dear friend who has one inexplicable behavior. When we visit, "Paula" will often floss her teeth right in front of her family and guests. This frequently occurs in the kitchen as she prepares and serves food. Not only are bits of dental debris projected about, but she doesn't wash her hands afterward, often proceeding with food preparation. She recently did this in the middle of a formal meal at a restaurant.

Paula would be mortified if anyone called this to her attention. I'm sure there are any number of tooth pickers, dental flossers and nose blowers who see nothing wrong with subjecting others to their hygiene habits. Hopefully some of them will get the message by reading this.

—Disgusted in the Northeast

Dear Disgusted: A quick nose blow or a lipstick fix is acceptable, but there is absolutely no excuse for flossing in public. Paula may be mortified, but you'd be doing her an enormous favor by pointing out, quietly, that most people would rather not witness such intimacies.


Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.


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