My grandmother and her hospital roommate -- aged, tiny, frail, and sporting matching bright pink hairnets.

They looked like twins -- two thin shrubs in winter that had each sprouted an improbable, big pink rose.

Although sick and scared, my grandmother had admired the pink hairnet on the lady in the next bed, so my mother bought her one too, to make her feel better.

It was 1966 and the first time my 77-year-old grandmother had ever been a patient in a hospital.

I felt sorry for her. Her English was broken, her understanding of medical science minimal, and her outlook definitely "old world." She was here to find out why she felt so weak.

But over three days, as the parade of physicians, nurses, and assorted medical professionals marched in and out of her room, with endless examinations, questions, and tests, the poor lady found she had something more to worry about than ill health.

"How can we afford all this?" she whimpered again and again.

And my mother -- who was probably wondering the same thing herself—nevertheless heartily reassured her, "Ma. Ma, don't worry. Medicare sent all these doctors. Medicare is going to pay for it."

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