Wednesday, July 25, 2007 7:29 PM
Tuesday, July 24, 2007 4:17 PM
By Adrian Campbell, American SiCKO
WATERFORD, MI -- I have been cancer free since my surgery in the fall of 2004. I visited Kyle Belward up at the Sault this past weekend. We talked about eventually moving to Saskatchewan.
Work in Windsor, Ontario, for Kyle, my "man-friend" from Canada was hard to find, so he went out to Fort McMurray, Alberta, to work in the oil sands. He finally came back to Windsor this past April, just in time for my birthday. But even since he has been back, he has had to go out of town for work. He currently is up in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario, and then when he is done there he will be in Toronto. It is hard, but that is the life of an iron worker.
But things have been difficult for me, too, since everyone saw me in 'SiCKO.'
I was called into my supervisor’s office Thursday afternoon, July 12. I was not sure why I would be getting called in; the departments I managed were running smoothly. I sat down at his desk, and he said “Well your position has been cut.” He pulls out a folder and handed it to me. “This is your severance package.” I could not believe it! I was shocked, mortified, and confused.
I asked why me and why he couldn’t send me to another department, or to another store. Mr. B as I will call him, said he could no longer have me working at the store or for the company and that it was bad publicity for the company to employ someone who is in a controversial documentary. In the past few weeks, he has called me “anti-American” for being in 'SiCKO.' Wanting healthcare -- good quality free healthcare -- is anti-American?
Meijer had to cut five managers at each store that day. I was number six from my store. The movie and his extreme conservative feelings were just an excuse to get rid of me. I am not sorry for sharing my story in the movie. I feel much better about it, because it is being used for something bigger.
There was no legitimate reason to fire me. I drove up sales, had many customer compliments, I got along with everyone at work. I was just unfortunate to get a new boss who felt that I would be a threat to Meijer’s reputation. Why was I a threat?
I never spoke to customers about the movie or my free healthcare beliefs. I never spoke to my fellow employees about it either. I had been recognized by a couple of customers, but they were guys who wanted my phone number more than to talk about healthcare in America. I had told my superiors that I was in 'SiCKO,' and informed them that I never mention Meijer in the movie.
Well, I never mentioned Meijer until now. I was a salaried manager, making $40,000 a year. I managed at my store, the bakery, the deli, the café, and the cheese shop. Due to corporate greed, I was forced to work 60 hours a week to make up for the lack of employees in the departments. I was stressed out a lot, tired, and bitchy. But I still went in every day, because I needed the job, to pay for my medical bills. It is a vicious cycle!
As Michigan’s unemployment rate continues to increase each day, I am saddened at my now former employer. Meijer’s roots are here in Michigan. They started in Greenville, Michigan back in 1934. Now 73 years later, they are no longer the family friendly place to work and shop. Instead they are contributing to the problems that plague this state and the rest of the country.
Now I find myself filling out the unemployment papers. My daughter Aurora was supposed to have tubes put in her ears next month, but I guess I will have to put that on the back burner. There is something wrong with this country, when a 4-year-old cannot have a medical procedure done, because her mom is without a job or health insurance. I am looking for work, but I am looking out of the country.
Don’t worry we will be fine. I am a fighter, and I have to hold strong for my daughter. Besides there is always Canada...
I love my country. I am very proud to be American, but when I cannot provide my child with medical care, it is time to look elsewhere. I hooked my Canuck years ago. Our relationship is stronger than ever. It’s always interesting, an American and a Canadian dating; it is like our own romantic version of Canadian Bacon.
Labels: Adrian Campbell, SiCKO
Sunday, July 22, 2007 7:13 PM
By Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER -- OK, so this discussion may be a little graphic for some, so bear with me, I do have a point to make. President George W. Bush had a colonoscopy done on Saturday morning, as you may already know since he had to give the vice president the reins of power for a couple of hours. President Bush has had other colonoscopies to remove polyps in his colon which could have become cancerous if left alone. So far, so good. Perfect medical strategy and just as I would want for any American.
What you may not have considered is that each and every time Mr. Bush has had a colonoscopy, he has done so under a government health plan -- his care as the governor of Texas and his care now as our President -- is paid for by you and me, the American taxpayers. And forevermore, if he needs another colonoscopy or God forbid one of those polyps is ever found to be cancerous, we will pay to make sure he is treated. This is just and humane. I wouldn't have it any other way.
Now, the fact that he had a team of doctors and was comfortably attended to at Camp David for his procedure is a bit more than most Americans would ever experience, and I'm betting the cost was too. No denial for payment from Blue Cross or Humana for this procedure or any part thereof, I'm betting. No, you and I happily paid for this so the President didn't need to worry himself before, during or after his colonoscopy.
My last colonoscopy was not the same. My experience was a little less dignified and a lot more expensive. And like the President, I've had a few of these since I've had polyps removed (and unlike Mr. Bush, because I am a cancer survivor and the polyps were shown to be pre-cancerous).
First of all, the prep for this procedure isn't a pretty process. The patient, whether it is a president or a pauper, most clean out his or her colon before the exam by drinking a gallon (and I am not kidding) of a substance called Go-Lytely (and I am still not kidding).
The results, as you might imagine, are explosive. For hours, the patient cannot move far from restroom facilities. There are moves underway to make the prep easier and less inconvenient, but I'm told this process remains the "Gold Standard." When I arrived at my local hospital for my last colonoscopy, I was ill. My head hurt so badly that I had to lean against a wall as the admissions team looked over my insurance information and had me sign financial guarantees of payment. I felt faint and wanted to throw up. I could feel my heart pounding -- not quite in unison with my head, and I begged the clerk to hurry so I could get some help.
It turned out that the prep process had severely dehydrated me to the point that I could not sit still because of the pain, and the medical staff that finally saw me 25 minutes after I begged for help at the front desk had difficulty even starting an IV drip because my veins were so narrowed by the dehydration. They said that unless they could get the IV started they would not be able to do my colonoscopy. I would have cried, but now the nausea from the pain in my head was overwhelming and crying would have jarred all of that into reality.
Finally, the IV was set and I was given anti-nausea drugs, IV-fluids and a pain killer to attack the headache. And this was all before the colonoscopy could begin. I squirmed during the procedure and could feel some of the twists and turns of the tubing in my colon as the doctors chatted and I moaned a little. I'm betting Mr. Bush was made a bit more comfortable than I was.
When the procedure was done, I was in a recovery area with three other patients. I was tired and upset -- more polyps removed just three years after the last -- and I just wanted to be alone to grieve the process and the inhumanity.
But then Larry came in -- my wonderful and brave husband -- who gives me more support than I often deserve. We found my shoes, and we went home to our home where 100 degree temperatures and the lack of air-conditioning made this June afternoon a difficult one for napping following the colonoscopy.
This was my experience as a fully insured American receiving my most recent colonoscopy. Quite a contrast from President Bush's government-funded procedure I paid for Saturday.
And yet earlier last week he held what he termed a "round table" on health care during which he said he would not support government-run health care for this nation. Really?
At the very least, Mr. President, I'd like to sit at that round table with you when this discussion continues. I have earned that through my payment for your health care and through my hard work and suffering.
I would ask you to consider that the process you went through for your colonoscopy was the top-of-the-line in terms of care. I do not begrudge you that. But why would you want any of your citizens to experience what is already a difficult experience with less dignity and less humanity than you did?
You call yourself a Christian, and I am too. I'm a Christian asking her President to start talking about justice and about concepts Christ would support -- even at the end of a colonoscopy tube.
Labels: Donna Smith
Saturday, July 21, 2007 7:00 PM
Part 2: Allies for ActionBy Donna Smith, American SiCKO
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After an afternoon of Congressional testimony, it was on to dinner, where leaders were gathered representing student activists (Remember the Students for a Democratic Society -- SDS -- folks? Well, students are re-organizing that group), anti-gun violence groups, anti-war groups, the Progressive Democrats of America and my new group -- American Patients for Universal Health Care (APUHC).
We agreed that we need to cooperate on shared and coordinated action. Many groups are doing many things and doing them well. Rather than pursuing countless splintered causes, we must combine many of our efforts to create the necessary conditions for political change.
Many people acknowledged, as Tony Benn did so eloquently in 'SiCKO,' that the people who hold the key to change are those who feel powerless -- the poor, the frightened and the demoralized.
We need the voices of people who are locked in an every day struggle for survival -- paying the bills, staying safe in their neighborhoods -- far removed from the political groups advocating for change. We agreed we must pursue strategies to reach the working poor, people of color, people of faith, and the shrinking middle class.
We will meet every two weeks to coordinate, and I will keep you posted on upcoming events and actions. 'SiCKO' has galvanized communities troughout the land. It is truly the evolution of a movement. Keep pushing, and together we will create change.
Labels: AUPHC, Donna Smith, PDA, SDS, SiCKO, Tony Benn
Sunday, July 15, 2007 10:30 PM
Part 1 of 3SiCKO Testifies Before CongressBy Donna Smith, American SiCKO
WASHINGTON, D.C. – There is a growing storm throughout America. 'SiCKO' has launched the health care reform movement into the national arena with lightning-rod intensity. Groups that have labored alone and new groups forming are joining forces to settle in for the civil rights battle of this generation. We will stand together for passage of universal health care reform. And we will not wait another generation.
It had already been an extraordinary 48 hours. I testified in front of Congress on Tuesday, July 17
, and told them how angry I am that they have not acted on health care reform. I sat on a witness panel with incredibly intelligent and committed people from Harvard Law School (Elizabeth Warren) and Harvard Medical School (David Himmelstein, also the founder of Physicians for a National Health Program
) and the Access Project
in Boston (Mark Rukavina).
Me, Donna Smith, average American, testified with these people. I was and am in awe. In the packed gallery of the hearing room were nurses and national health care reform leaders. Leaders from anti-war advocacy groups were also there. Groups represented at the hearing included: the California Nurses Association
, Code Pink
and the Progressive Democrats of America
, among others.
In the hours before and after the hearing, I met with Senators Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and lobbied not with money but with my heart and soul.
Later on during my trip, I visited with Sen. Tom Daschle, who no longer serves in the Senate, but sure should still be there. Though there is nothing to be gained by him in meeting with me, and my station in life certainly does not compare with his, he never fails to make me feel welcome to speak my mind and heart. He was the first person in Congress ever to hear me out on health care crisis – and he applauds my ever-expanding activism.
But my activism is not the only political passion expanding for health care reform in the weeks following the release of 'SiCKO.' Americans are gathering in many locations throughout the nation to plan post-'SiCKO' action.
Labels: Code Pink, Donna Smith, House Judiciary, PDA, PNHP, ROOT, SiCKO, the Access Project, Tony Benn
Wednesday, July 11, 2007 6:04 PM
By Larry Smith, American 'SiCKO'
In recent weeks, I have grown weary of listening to one group of health care reform naysayers in particular. I can handle all the goofs who see 'SiCKO' and just don't quite get it yet. Most of the time that's the young folks who haven't gotten sick or needed to use their insurance yet. I forgive their youthfulness and that sense of immortality.
The people who annoy me are those who haven't even seen the movie and who recoil when asked if they have. Some are religious zealots who think Michael Moore is a communist, America-hating fellow. I don't know where they get that sort of thinking, but most of what they say sounds sort of pre-programmed or scripted. It scares me a little. Brainwashed people are not free people.
But then I think back to a quote I read long ago by a British philosopher, Herbert Spencer, (OK, so I didn't know he was a philosopher until Donna told me so -- she looks up stuff like that just to make sure I'm not quoting something wrong). His thoughts go something like this, "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance -- that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
So, go see the film and then talk to me about it. You won't catch something from all the universal health care supporters in the theater, you know. And you might just learn a little.
Labels: British philosopher, Larry Smith, SiCKO
Friday, July 6, 2007 4:16 PM
By 9/11 first responder John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation
NEW YORK -- A pen in my hands could make some difference in the lives around me, and I work through the FealGood Foundation to make sure the documents I sign relieve some of the suffering of my fellow 9/11 responders. If I could, I would use my pen as you used yours last week. I would save my buddies.
In commuting the prison sentence of your friend Scooter, you said you believed the sentence imposed was too severe. Boy, can I relate.
When I look at the life sentences imposed on 9/11 responders suffering with acute illness, financial and emotional ruin and nearly six long years of neglect by their city, state and federal government leaders, I fill with rage and frustration. You've seen some of us in 'SiCKO,' so I know you are aware of our plight. My pen can only relieve tiny bits of their suffering. Yours could lift much more.
In an instant, Mr. President, you could use your mighty pen to affirm the faith you put in all of us in the hours, days, weeks and months after 9/11 to be what you called heroes and send a message to the world that Americans stand together in the face of threat.
With one stroke, you could issue and sign an executive order that would open clinic and hospital doors to 9/11 responders who are ill and without life-saving medical care.
Do you understand the betrayal of trust and confidence we feel? Just as Scooter took the hit for others in your circle of friends, my brothers and sisters took the dust and debris, the shock and the danger, the toxins and the smoke for everyone in America as we worked at ground zero so long ago.
We need you to feel for us – the folks you called out as heroes – the same passion and compassion that made you reach for your pen for Scooter. We need your help and we need it now. We have served a long sentence already. We have been punished for our actions on 9/11. We do not understand exactly what the crimes were in rushing in to help, nor do we understand how you can turn your back on us still. We were there with you. We believed what you told us. We trusted you with our lives.
So, Mr. President, won’t you please lift that pen again as you have done for Scooter Libby? The order could be simple, as a start:
“All 9/11 responders from this day forward shall be entitled to the care they need. A violation of this order will not be tolerated. These men and women are to be treated in every way as heroes, not unlike U.S. soldiers on the battlefield.” -- Signed...
A signature today would save lives. It would save dignity. It might even tell the world that you are a man of your word, and that a contract made with your nation’s heroes is not to be broken. Please use your pen today. Many lives depend on it.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but your signature on this action may well be worth more than a thousand lives. Stand aside, Scooter, your president has some more commutations to issue. And the 9/11 responders are finally first in line.
Labels: 9/11 responders, FealGood foundation, John Feal
Thursday, July 5, 2007 8:01 PM
By Rep. John Conyers
The need for universal health care has never been more urgent. There are now 47 million Americans with no health insurance at all, including 8 million children. Eighteen thousand Americans die each year as a direct consequence of being uninsured, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Recent studies indicate that medical debt is the leading cause of both bankruptcy and homelessness. These facts are unacceptable in the richest country in the world.
Last Friday, June 29th, Michael Moore's new documentary, "Sicko," opened in theaters across the country. "Sicko" illustrates the human impact of a health care system based on profit instead of patients. The most disturbing and compelling aspect of the film is that the heartbreaking personal stories it features are not about our nation's 47 million uninsured. They are about people who actually had health insurance when they were forced into bankruptcy due to medical debt or when a family member died because he or she was denied necessary care.
By focusing on Americans who have health insurance coverage, Moore's film shows us that no one is immune from our nation's sick health care system.
The stories highlighted in the film are impossible to ignore or explain away, and that is why I believe that the release of "Sicko" is one of the most important developments in our public debate since the Clintons tried to pass universal health care legislation in 1994.
Last Wednesday, we screened clips from "Sicko" for members of Congress and heard testimony from Mr. Moore, as well as Americans featured in the film. The response was tremendous. More than 15 members of Congress were in attendance, including one Republican, and people lined up in the halls of the Rayburn House Office Building to get a peek.
"Sickness doesn't know Democrat or Republican," Moore said following the testimony of Dawnelle Keys, whose 18-month old daughter died when she was denied antibiotics because an ambulance took her to the emergency room nearest to her home, which happened not to be "in-network" for Keys' HMO.
"This is not a political issue. I can't imagine anyone that doesn't believe that every American has the human right to see a doctor when they get sick and not have to worry about whether or not they can afford it," Moore said. "There should be no profit in curing disease."
I agree. And for this reason I have proposed H.R. 676
, The United States National Health Insurance Act, which would establish a publicly financed, privately delivered single payer health care system based on expanding and improving Medicare. H.R. 676 currently has 74 cosponsors in Congress and is supported by eight international unions, 14,000 physicians, two state houses and dozens of county and municipal governments across the country.
These supporters have come to recognize a fundamental truth, as have the governments of all the other industrialized countries of the world: Single-payer financing is the only way we can afford to cover all our citizens with high-quality health care.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007 1:13 PM
By Eric Turnbow, the "Fifth Beatle" appearing in ‘SiCKO’
SEATTLE, WA -- Everyone is full of congrats and affection about this lucky break I caught and the "15 minutes of fame" I will receive by actually making it into the Michael Moore movie 'SiCKO.' I am very excited and quite passionate about this subject. My part is just a small segue that moves the story from Canada and its health care system, over to England and its universal care which I was able to use in a great way while vacationing there in London some 10 years ago.
So here is a journal of my proud day at the movie premier on Thursday, June 14th in Seattle, when I got a rare chance to meet Michael Moore and see his innovative and eye-opening documentary, 'SiCKO.'
First off, they called from Hollywood and invited me to go just one day before the event. I was asked to RSVP, so I cleared my schedule ASAP, hired someone to fill in for me at The Viking, and chose a "guest" to come along and share this cool moment with me. My sister Katherine had emailed me offering to go if it came up. In fact she was the only one with the exception of her son that showed any interest in driving so far just to see a movie. It also helps that she lives in Seattle! Duh! So I asked her and she said yes. Very cool.
We were to meet at the venue by the Paramount just off Pine Street called "AMC Pacific Cinemas," which was on the fourth floor of a shopping mall. My sis wanted to buy me lunch, so we were to meet at 5 p.m., giving us over an hour before we needed to check in with Michael Moore's crew. I left Olympia around 3:42 p.m., and with a little traffic hassle here and there I actually arrived at the theater by 5:07 p.m. I did not make even one wrong turn and landed in the parking garage in the same building as the theater! Katherine was stuck in traffic, but arrived within a half-hour. We had delicious Margaritas and chicken quesadillas at a little Mexican bar just a small walk away from the venue. Yummy.
So we checked in as VIPs, and were escorted to a roped-off section of the screening room and sat with the press. Michael Moore arrived with his sister, Anne Moore, who greeted me and said, "You are the one that provided some much needed comic relief in the middle of our little picture, thank you." And that was coming from one of the producers! Michael greeted the crowd and announced he would have a question and answer session after the film. Then he took his seat about three feet from us, directly in front of me, down two rows.
So we watched the flick. I loved it! I say, just go and see it. I do not want to spoil it for you. I will say that my part arrives about halfway through the film. Michael plowed through four hours of my vacation videos and carefully edited them down for this transitional time in the movie. They included:
∙The plane ride to England.
∙Singing an a capella original song "Oh England" at the London hotel with my friend Ken.
∙Sitting on the steps of the legendary "Abbey Road Studios
" where the Beatles
recorded the bulk of their work. I was shooting the cover art for my debut album "I'm Alive," which was released in 1998.
∙My famous fall on Abbey Road where I was walking on my hands for the unique photo opportunity.
∙Waking up in the hospital after having my shoulder pushed back into place by English medics.
∙Enjoying my "less than $10" medication that came along with me FREE MEDICAL SERVICE!
Michael makes the comment that I had to enjoy London, "My own way." He then proceeds to go to England to see if what I say is true about the meds and the FREE health care. If you watch the entire credits, my name appears in alphabetical order, just above Eddie Vedder, of Pearl Jam
So after the movie, Michael addressed the crowd for about a half hour. The first thing he did was point me out by name, and I got a loud cheer of recognition. This was the highlight for me. I stood up and put my hands in the air in acknowledgment, and the he said something like, "Eric gives hope to all those musicians in the world out there." So that was awesome.
On the way out of the complex I was actually recognized by several people. This was cool, since in the film I was sporting a beard, a mustache, and much longer hair. All in all it was a great night, quite a highlight for a young kid like me from Olympia, Washington! Thanks, Mike!
My sister Katherine seemed to enjoy herself, so I dropped her at her car and headed back to Olympia with a big smile on my face. And there you have it. Thanks, everyone, for your support and interest. By all means go and see this movie! It opened on June 29th, and I simply cannot wait to see it again!
Labels: Abbey Road, Beatles, England, Eric Turnbow, Olympia, SiCKO
Monday, July 2, 2007 6:39 PM
An Update by Linda Peeno
I began work in the health care industry through a part-time job, which I thought would be temporary while I took a couple of years to care for my children. When I realized that something called “managed care” was beginning to radically change the nature of medicine and the care of patients, I left the clinical practice of medicine to concentrate on public education and patient protection. In the early 1990’s, few people understood how deadly the “system” of managed care had become. Corporations created “black boxes” of hidden tactics, schemes, and processes designed to put profits over patients into which few could see. As an “insider,” I tried to use my knowledge to help others with power to make change. Initially it was difficult, for few people listened or cared. Slowly, though, the stories of harm and death to patients began to break through and the public, professionals, advocacy groups, media and policy-makers began to take note. The first major Congressional hearing on “managed care” was held in May of 1996, and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to share my experiences.
After that hearing, I felt an increased urgency about the need for change. With the rising attention to the problems, more people came forward to tell about their plights. I threw myself into the work, sinking every bit of energy, time and other resources into as much education and assistance as I could possibly give. I knew that with each passing week, more people suffered. At every turn, it looked as if we might achieve some change. Congress might pass effective patient protection or rid the industry of the ERISA loophole (that protects managed care companies from legal accountability for some of their decisions). States might protect patients or help the uninsured. Health plans and other organizations might become more patient-centered. Health care professionals, especially doctors, might revolt. I dreamed big dreams, but watched as one thing after another failed to materialize in ways that made significant differences to the real lives of patients. Meanwhile, I have watched the health industry increasingly turn us all into “consumers” and medicine into a commodity, casting us all into the marketplace in which our health and life becomes something we are expected to buy and sell like cars, computers, or any other commercial good. We now get what we can pay or fight for, which means many of us don’t get what we need, and many others are discovering that even with money, they suffer. Money isn’t enough to buy a caring, competent nurse at the bedside, a doctor who puts patients first, a safe hospital or patient-centered organization, or all the other ways of providing compassion, care, attention, tenderness, and value as a human being.
The years since 1996 became increasingly tough and often dispiriting, especially as I witnessed thousands new stories of harm and death, watched a system grow more sophisticated in its profiteering and cruelty, and faced my own limitations (as well as those of others) to make a difference. However, despite moments of deep despair and sadness for the prices that have been paid by many, many people, I have never given up hope that we would eventually wake up collectively and say “enough.” Health care is a universal medium. We are all mortal and vulnerable. We need one another. There are some things money cannot buy and the market cannot sell. During the past couple of years, I have experienced these lessons directly and I have been both humbled and transformed in ways statistics and theories could not achieve.
Though we desperately need radical health reform and urgent patient protections, a change in policy will not be enough. We need a change of heart and spirit with equal urgency. We need to create a culture of care, compassion, and connection – not just for health care, but for all our ways of need for one another.
The year 1996 marked a threshold – a time when a few patient stories ceased to be only anecdotes and became evidence of a well-designed, evolving system of potential harm and death. Now 2007 marks another threshold – a time when the breakdown of medicine and health care is evidence of a more fundamental breakdown in our societal and cultural values. Little happened in 1996, and things became unimaginably worse and many more people suffered. If little happens now, we are going to find that life from this point on will be shockingly unbearable for more and more people in more and more ways. Who of us will give a life this time for inaction? For me, 2007 marks a new phase of life-commitment, one that has now broadened beyond health care. We cannot have a care-centered health care system until we have a care-centered society, and I am personally committed to another round of sinking whatever I have – energy, time and other resources – into that work. At least, in this next phase, I don’t think I am going to feel quite so alone in the struggle.
By Donna Smith, proud American appearing in Michael Moore's 'SiCKO'
ATLANTA – It would be difficult to identify one moment over the past two weeks as the most powerful or moving. As my husband and I have traveled through the U.S. participating in premieres and screenings of Michael Moore’s new film,'SiCKO,' we have experienced things that folks in our income range and social groups rarely do. We have been graciously included in events often closed to all but the most celebrated of celebs.
Michael Moore featured us in the film because we represent what is happening to so many Americans. Our health issues and health care costs drove us to bankruptcy and shame. The past several years have been filled with anguish, and the joy of watching this film begin to make an impact is healing for us.
But a few days ago in Atlanta, I found myself witness to and participant in a health care truth hearing sponsored by HealthCare-Now
at the U.S. Social Forum
. That hearing illuminated more truth – more stories – many like those shown in 'SiCKO'. But the hearing also made it abundantly clear that no amount of slick advertising or marketing whitewash can cover up what Americans are enduring within this private health care system. The truth just cannot be hidden.
Listening to story after story about trauma and devastation suffered by fellow Americans who are uninsured or under-insured is difficult, even sickening. The moral issues cannot be avoided. And as Michael Moore asks in 'SiCKO,' “Who are we?”
But I also began to see a broader view of the whole private health care issue within one story told by a nearly toothless woman from Ohio. Though her speech was definitely impaired by her lack of teeth, she spoke with courage and without self-pity which might have been easier and certainly justified.
She had health insurance just a couple of years ago through her job. She worked, paid taxes and paid her health premiums. But when her dental problems became more and more serious, her insurance plan would not cover necessary treatment. It did cover removal of teeth. So, slowly but surely, her teeth were pulled.
She stood before us now in an open-air tent in the hot, thick, mid-day air in Atlanta. Huge fans circulated the air and could have drowned out her voice, but the crowd was silent and her strength was enough to overcome the background noise.
She told us that after her teeth were pulled, her employer fired her because she was “unsightly.” We gasped, but only in support of her not because we didn’t believe a modern American company would do such a thing. She told us that then she started down the steady slope towards homelessness and use of the public health system that included emergency room visits for health issues that might have been handled in a less acute and less expensive setting, if she had insurance or cash to use another provider.
This beautiful, powerful woman had been reduced to this. And she had most surely been yanked off the roles of taxpaying Americans and onto the public program rosters. How does this make even economic sense?
She goes from contributor to being a “drain” on the system nearly overnight. And as she slipped into deep poverty and homelessness, she also developed physical problems from her terrible living conditions and a lack of preventative or even early interventional health care.
Another scenario for her could have been, if we had universal health care, that she had her dental problems addressed properly and her teeth saved, kept her job and her modest housing, continued paying taxes and eventually moved forward in her life. Even if I remove all the hideous, non-compassionate ethical considerations, it just flat seems smarter to me that we stop this cycle.
Every American product now includes in its cost a certain percentage of mark-up for health costs and coverage provided by American businesses. On large ticket items, like cars, that cost increase can often be several hundred dollars. Since most Americans finance the purchase of cars, they now also pay interest on the amount that the car manufacturer must pass along in health care costs for its employees.
Those costs have mounted in every industry across the nation. In many cases, those increased costs are making American products and services less competitive thereby driving the increased dependence on foreign products and the loss of American jobs. This cycle is well-documented. Every major news organization has done reports on the issue, and few arguments countering this cause-effect economic pattern have been offered.
Small businesses can often not afford to even offer health coverage at all or offer only plans with high premiums and deductibles which are more like catastrophic coverage.
So this whole private health insurance system is costing us all – top to bottom, morally and economically.
So why do we keep it up? Do we see those toothless individuals and still think, “It couldn’t happen to me?” Or do we step over them on our way to our American dreams, still believing we did it the right way and they did it wrong? Poor people have poor ways, don’t you know.
After sitting in that hot tent in Atlanta and listening to this woman with more dignity than any person I’ve yet to meet on this marvelous journey toward changing this system, I realized that this fight will take much more than a call for moral justice or outrage.
The battle to pass House Resolution 676
, single-payer, universal health care, as offered by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and 75 other co-sponsors, will take moral indignation, no doubt.
But the fight for universal health care will also take a tearing at the very fabric of the American psyche – that independent streak that makes us pioneers and homesteaders and internet start-up gurus.
We all grew up with this gut full of self-righteousness, lightly colored with compassion as we attended church each Sunday. But now we need to flip-flop the equation a bit.
We’ll need economists on board to really compare the costs of the whole package: including a very direct assessment of how universal health care would play out in an average family’s budget and in the budget’s of the SUV-driving, three-car-garage in the suburbs owning families.
Let’s get really down to the nuts and bolts of the reality. Toothless, unemployed, uninsured women cost us serious money. If we cannot see her pain and see her humanity, then can we at least run the numbers?
As for me, I don’t need to run the numbers. I see the costs for her. I feel the costs for myself in the lack of self-respect I feel when I realize I am part of the system that is doing this to her and hundreds of thousands of others. And I know that I never again want to hear a fellow American woman stand before me apologizing for her lisp due to a loss of teeth and assuring me that she once had a beautiful smile.
That cost is simply unacceptable on any level. There is no political spin fast enough or whitewash dense enough to cover this American woman’s truth.
Labels: Atlanta, Donna Smith, HealthCare-Now, HR676, SiCKO, Universal Healthcare, US Social Forum
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