A retired school teacher from Iowa will be sitting in First Lady Michelle Obama’s "box" tonight as President Obama addresses congress and urges action on health care reform. An official from the White House called 75-year-old Darlyne Neff of Iowa City on Friday and invited her to D.C. for the event.
"I think that I’m just a representative of hundreds of people around the country who are interested in health care and want to see that more people get health care coverage," she says, "and especially that children are taken care of as we go forward."
Neff says she’s alive today because of an operation for breast cancer and another that removed a brain tumor. This past December Obama’s "Transition Team" asked Neff to host a "neighborhood discussion" about health care reform.
"So I invited the people who live in Oaknoll, the retirement complex where I live in Iowa City and about 20 people showed up," Neff said. "There were heated debate and discussions about health care and what should be done. There were a number of doctors here, so we really had a good chance to exchange ideas."
Now, nine months later, Neff says people have gotten "pretty riled up" about health care reform and she’s hoping President Obama gives a "clear idea" of what he wants congress to pass.
"Everybody’s focused on health care," Neff says. "It seems now is the time for us to do something about it."
Neff favors a so-called "public option" which would have a government-run plan compete with private insurance. During a public hearing in March , Neff said retirees "know who good (they) have it" because they’re covered by goverment-run Medicare, and she said "basic health care should be available to everyone today."
Neff taught kindergarten and first grade, then moved on to be a substitute teacher in middle schools before spending six years as a Kirkwood Community College instructor. She spoke by phone with Radio Iowa late yesterday afternoon.