Road to November: Westfield Seniors Concerned About Medicare and Medicaid


If you take Exit 113 off Highway 51, you’ll drive into Westfield, “Where the pioneer spirit lives on.” A large statue of a pioneer greets travelers, along with a military tank and large Romney/Ryan sign. We heard varying opinions about the election from voters in town — including a group of seniors.

Five days a week, about 45 retirees have lunch together at the community center in Westfield. But before anyone eats, they say grace.

Tuesday, the community lunch program served roasted pork, carrots and corn, and sweet potato tots. Sixty-seven year-old Kathleen Collins, who lives outside of Westfield and thoroughly enjoyed her meal. She says for some of the people, this is the only meal they’ll have all day.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

“A lot of people here don’t have enough at home to feed themselves. That’s why this is a good program,” she explained.

The Westfield senior lunch program receives some federal funding. Collins says with all the talk about eliminating programs, she fears it will be cut. But, Collins is more concerned about how Governor Romney might change other programs that help seniors. She’s on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which helps pay to treat her lymphoma.

She likes how the Obama administration has managed the programs and says without them, she’d be dead. “Your parts are going to wear out so you need to see a doctor at least once a year for a checkup which is free under Medicare and that’s good.”

A band called Jerry and Friends started to play when most were finished with their meals.

Sharen Martz smiled and tapped her fingers on the table along to the beat of the saxophone, singing the melody of Side by Side. She’ll be voting for Obama via absentee ballot. Martz says worries about changes to Medicare under a Romney administration. “I had heart surgery in April and without Medicare I wouldn’t have been able to. I got the bill and it was $198,000.”

Of that, Martz said she paid $39.

Sitting across the table, Bob Noffke of Amherst said politicians aren’t looking out for seniors like they ought to. But it’s his religion that drives his decision in this election.

“If the good Lord decides this is the one that’s going to be our president and the way our country is going, I suppose it’s true. The way our country’s going now, we’re on a slippery slope if we don’t change our ways.”

He’s keeping his presidential choice to himself but said he is pro-life, a strong Christian, and does not support gay marriage.

Down the street, outside an old lavender mansion, Devil Jones proudly showed off a pond he built for his wife. It has everything, a spinning water wheel, an old chicken coop for decoration, and a Dutch windmill off to the side.

Jones says he’s become fed up with politics in general. He’s frustrated with immigration, wants smarter economists working with the administration, and, most of all, everyone to quit bickering. He doesn’t think President Obama has done a good job the past for years, and says the country as been left with “no hope,no trust, no nothing.”

In the end Jones says he’ll vote for whomever his wife tells him to vote for.

Inside the house, where there are six purebred cats, a little white dog, and a 1,000 gallon fish tank with several koi swimming about, Mary Jones was chain smoking at a beautiful Victorian-style table. She’ll be voting for Romney because she’s sick of the government borrowing money from China and spending it on “unnecessary programs.”

“I mean, studying exotic ants for a few million dollars, other goofy stuff. Do we need this? Not in a time when money’s short. When money’s short, I don’t go out to dinner, I don’t go to the shows,” she says she wants the country to do the same.

Jones says if Romney is elected, he’ll surround himself with cabinet members who can fix the economy. If he’s elected, she believes the governor can get the country back on it’s feet. Her husband, however, needed more convincing.

“All this negative stuff with politics, I don’t believe anybody can fix this mess,” he said.

Mary shook her head, “O ye of little faith.”

This story is part of Wisconsin Public Radio’s Road to November series. Reporters Maureen McCollum and Lindsey Moon are traveling north along Highway 51 talking to voters about the election all this week. What issue is most important to you? Tweet @WPRNews #WIpolitics. Find updates from the road on WPRNews’ Facebook page.