Candy store manager Judy Williams © Microsoft

Candy store manager Judy Williams

In two years, Judy Williams will turn 65.

She's looking forward to the day, because she'll finally be eligible for Medicare, the government-sponsored health care program available to all Americans 65 and older, which her husband, 66, recently joined.

Williams, who manages a candy store at a mall in Port Arthur, Texas, is hardly alone in her angst over health coverage. Talk to anyone older than 35 who works at a low-wage or temporary job -- common in Port Arthur and other working-class towns across the country -- and it's a good bet that health insurance will make a quick appearance in the conversation. Everyone has a health care story.

For Williams, the story begins with her husband's ambulance ride to a hospital last winter that, as it turned out, wasn't covered by his employer's new budget insurance plan. The couple have yet to see the full bill.

So the Williamses dropped the employer's plan. "Why bother?" she asked. Her husband, who also works in a small store in the mall, would use Medicare. She would find a private plan.

One evening in June, Williams was quizzing her workers for advice: Did they know how to ease the pain of a plantar wart? She'd tried various home remedies, but nothing worked, and it hurt to stand. Going to the doctor wasn't an option.

Williams is also skipping her annual colonoscopy, which doctors prescribed because her mother died of colon cancer.

"I'm paying $315 a month for insurance out of pocket, but I have a $5,000 deductible, so if I have to go to the doctor, I still have to pay it," she said.

When researching insurance options, Williams learned that her company, Candy Craze, had decided not to offer workers a health plan after a survey revealed that most would not buy into it.

"I think they should make a law that requires Candy Craze and all small businesses to provide health insurance for their employees," she said.

Williams was unaware that the Affordable Care Act contains just such a provision, which is scheduled to go into effect in 2014. Nor did she know that Mitt Romney had vowed to repeal the law.

Moments earlier, she had explained why she would probably vote for Romney in November: "I'm a Democrat. I've voted Democrat all my life," she said. "I voted for Obama. But I thought he was going to help me and help the working class and the poor. And I don't see that he's done that. I'm going to go the other way."

In short, she said, her own finances have not improved. Nor does it seem as if business throughout the mall where she works has picked up.

"They're supposed to create jobs, but I don't see any jobs created," she said.

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Williams' son, who is 39, had been laid off from his job at a chemical-waste plant a week before, and he was hustling for lawn-mowing work while looking for a new job.

"We used to always say that the Republicans were for rich people, but before Obama it seems like we were in better shape," she said.