Carmela Soprano on Health Reform

Thursday, July 2, 2009; 9:25 PM

Edie Falco plays a nurse on television -- the title character in Showtime's new "Nurse Jackie" -- but she's not a medical expert. Or an authority on health-care reform. She is, however, a person who remembers what it's like to worry about getting sick and not being able to pay for a doctor. So she has taken an advocacy role with Health Care for America Now and recently made a stop on Capitol Hill. She spoke with Outlook's Rachel Dry about the Screen Actors Guild's health coverage, her hopes for a health-care bill and the kind of policy questions Carmela Soprano used to get. Excerpts:

What do you want to see happen on health-care reform?

I want everybody in this country to have a health-care plan of some kind. That when you're sick, all you have to worry about is taking the right steps to getting better, and that you have professionals guiding you that you can afford to see. To some extent I'm staying out of the actual logistics of the policy. I don't want to pretend to know more than I do or be more than I am.

What are you hearing from people?

There's sort of this vague idea of people who aren't covered, people who've had difficulties with the health-care situation in this country. But when you have people telling the stories of day-to-day life and the things they've gone through themselves or family members, the situation is very real. Very personal, private and painful. These are Americans, you know, and it's truly preposterous to me that people are struggling the way that they are in a country with these kinds of resources.

You just mentioned the personal and private. In your discussion of this issue, you've talked about your own treatment for breast cancer.

My breast cancer situation is not entirely relevant so far as wanting health-care reform, because by the time I was diagnosed I already had great coverage and I was exceedingly well taken care of. Part of it was that, now that I'm working and I can actually afford to take better care of myself, I have great coverage, but back in the day, even when I was a member of Screen Actors Guild, a union that has great insurance, if you don't make enough money in the union you don't have coverage. And that was a time I really did need to be helped.

Do you remember what the earning cutoff for coverage was?

I don't even know. I forget what it was. Something simple -- not a lot of money.

I guess that's good that you don't have that number at your fingertips anymore.

It caused me such stress in my life. If I don't have to be jumping into the numbers game, I prefer not to be. But whatever it was, it was more than I was making.

Why did you decide to talk about your own cancer treatment?

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company