By Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER – Full of irony. That is how I would best describe 2007. I began this year with fear and anticipation and with a healthy dose of shame thrown in. And I will begin 2008 with more depth of spirit and fewer illusions.
As 2007 dawned, we were still living with our daughter and trying to find ways to stay emotionally afloat. Anyone who saw ‘SiCKO’ knows that there was much more going on in our family than just health care woes. Our financial failure had made us much more vulnerable to the judgments of those around us – including some who found it acceptable to openly assess our lives and offer their superior advice about why we landed ourselves in trouble and how we could lift ourselves out.
Funny how financial weakness seems to make it open season for that sort of thing. Some folks reserved their judgment and waited to see if our appearance in 'SiCKO' would lift us out of our financial problems or at least give us fame and a little fortune. A few even pushed us onward toward whatever the experience would bring our way.
But in early 2007, we could not have seen how our inclusion in Michael Moore’s ‘SiCKO’ and the release of that film would alter that reality for us. Oh we knew the obvious consequences like the vitriolic musings of conservatives who wince and whine and fuss and fume at the mere mention of Michael Moore or the less obvious issues, such as the loss of income and loss of relationships associated with our post-SiCKO-release lives.
By early summer, our lives began to transform. We were now in a small apartment of our own, and the film’s pending release included travel plans to various cities for the openings. New York City, Washington, D.C., Denver, Los Angeles, Atlanta – all in nine days. Ironic how we were not certain where our next rent payment would come from but jetting around the country.
Then in July, I testified for a committee of the House Judiciary in the U.S. House of Representatives. The healing of spirit that had begun on a movie screen in Manhattan blossomed into political resolve and outright commitment.
We began intense political activities including visiting our own Congressional members in Washington, formed a patients' political lobby group (American Patients for Universal Health Care or APUHC), and planned a national health justice vigil.
We took part in the first leg of the SiCKO Cure National Road Show -- traveling to 12 states, 22 Congressional districts and scores of cities from Illinois southward through Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. We met thousands of kind and generous Americans who believe the health system is beyond the point where small fixes will suffice.
I flew to speak at Wellesley College in Boston, Seattle Central Community College and in Pueblo, Colorado, where lively discussions of 'SiCKO' brought out students, faculty, providers, patients, pundits and lots of other people who care deeply about making the health care system better for us all.
We end 2007 on the highest of notes tempered with reality. I face joining the ranks of the uninsured of this nation for the first time in my life. My COBRA premiums are too high and the company issuing the policy threatened cancellation when my last payment was a couple days late due to a check sent to me being delayed by harsh winter weather. I probably won't win the reinstatement battle and will have to purchase some sort of high-risk pool coverage or do as so many millions of Americans do know -- go bare and pray.
Larry is covered by Medicare and a supplemental policy which we just found out is doing him little real good and costing us an extra $90 a month. So we'll adjust that and take a chance that we've made the right adjustment. And we're just one American family wondering what will happen with our coverage and our care in 2008 should we get sick.
But we'll also march confidently into 2008 knowing that this year, real political change is possible if we all want it badly enough. Out there on the happy American trails, we hope to see you and add you to our army of new friends and fellow citizens who really do still believe in the power of this democracy and its power to heal even this crisis.
As I told some leary co-workers as we headed for New York back in June for the 'SiCKO' premiere, "So long, I'm off to change the world." Won't you join us? Thanks to 'SiCKO' and to Michael Moore and to a few brave U.S. Congressional members, that's not an empty invitation. We are in this together and thank God we are.
Cheers and Happy New Year to all.