Sunday, August 17, 2008 9:13 AM
Tuesday, January 15, 2008 4:18 PM
By Donna Smith, American SiCKO
Founder, American Patients United
National Co-Chair PDA's Healthcare NOT Warfare
Communications specialist, California Nurses Association/NNOC
CHICAGO -- During every national election cycle at about this time in the big races, I start to want to scream into the great abyss of political hype flying around. "You don't speak for me. You haven't seen what it's like to live in America's real middle class for a long time," I want to thunder as loudly as they do their messages of kinship with me.
I am a middle class grandmother. I grew up in Illinois. I was raised to care about God and country. I may not have achieved a great level of renown, but I think I have just as much right to weigh in on this nation's future as those who claim to know me but just don't.
Whether it's Lou Dobbs blowing hard on CNN about his affinity for the great middle class of this nation (and his salary is what?
) or Barack Obama or John McCain claiming empathy by slamming down a shot and a beer (and the last time they bought half a tank of gas because payday was still three days away was when?
), none of these people know what middle class life feels like right now, today in middle America. They may grab a position or two that they know is sexy enough to get media attention, but they don't get it -- they do not get me -- and they won't be my best advocates unless and until they do.
Let's talk healthcare, for example. And let's talk reality for middle class folks like me. This issue permeates so many different parts of my life. From where I work to where I shop, rising costs for healthcare invade not only my bottom line in wages and benefits but also every business and every product and every service I use.
I know gas prices matter too, but any wonk who claims to speak for me is lying if he or she fails to talk about what the costs of healthcare are doing in a much more insidious way. If today's price for a night in the hospital or an "extended" visit with my doctor was posted on every street corner like gas prices are, I dare say the conversation might shift. And while we're at it, let's post the cost each business paid for health insurance coverage for its employees.
Thank God I have insurance coverage through my employer. And thank God my husband now has coverage through Medicare. So, in theory, the issues of access to care should be golden for us and for millions of others in this nation. Yet I have to spend weeks waiting for care, get just moments being assessed for needed care, then weeks more waiting for more assessment and all the while missing precious work time and not being helped to feel better or have better strategies for preventative care. That is my middle class reality.
And let's talk everyday life, for a moment. I see gas prices rise and fall with little relationship to world conditions to which I am privy. I get the impression that the twists and turns of those markets have more to do with making money and then yanking my chain with prices that fall back just enough to provide minimal relief. During the points when the prices are surging, everything in my world gets more expensive, yet when the pump prices recede just a bit, everything else stays at the inflated price. I am not stupid, and that is my middle class reality.
My middle class reality is that at any moment I might not be middle class. And that reality is what keeps me in constant worry and always listening for some understanding of that reality.
SiCKO was released a year ago, and I often tell audiences I am the blessed one from among those people featured in the film. I have the honor now to work for a great organization -- the California Nurses Association -- and I can pay my rent and my basic bills again. And we even have a newer used car for the first time in eight years. I will never again be a homeowner, though. There are not enough working years left to repair my damaged credit following our bankruptcy due to illness while insured. I am afraid about the "what-if's" -- every single day. My security is tenuous. That is my middle class reality.
I watch my country's infrastructure crumble -- the potholes, the traffic jams, the weakened and old bridges. I worry about the gun violence our young people live with -- and I am married to a hunter, a man who loves guns used for sporting purposes. When I do get to fly, I am herded onto airplanes that may or may not take off on time or at all -- and I have no recourse for time lost, bosses angered or family members inconvenienced. I wonder if any of this will matter if the global warming issues overtake any of the momentary concerns and the planet does not survive our abuse.
And finally, I do love my country and our troops and my freedom. I am sad about our current world situation as I think about what World War II vets like my dad fought for and believed in. Are there times when war must be waged? Yes. But I am afraid we've completely screwed up our set of priorities and really do not like our warring for oil and world dominance while we send mosquito nets and missionaries into areas where tens of millions die enduring conditions we will not fight. That is not my middle class realty nor my values at work.
I am not safe in my homeland. I am bombarded by conditions over which I have no control that threaten my personal safety daily. Healthcare costs and all the deaths related to that crisis right here on American soil are evidence enough for me -- my personal safely is not being protected by anyone.
There are plenty of people in the middle class who could and should speak up during these troubled times. I just want those in the upper classes who claim they speak for me to stop it... tell me the truth for a change. You speak for whatever interest you find potentially profitable at the moment. But you do not speak for me.
I will speak for myself. You will not define which issues to rant about and impose on me. My daily life defines the issues for me. And as one of the middle class reality wonks in this nation, I can tell you I am pretty angry and pretty disgusted with all who claim to know better than I do what the world I live in is like.
Labels: american patients united, CNA, CNN, Donna Smith, Lou Dobbs, McCain, Obama, PDA, SiCKO, single payer, Universal Healthcare
Sunday, January 6, 2008 7:46 PM
By Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER -- The pillars did not crumble and the crosses did not quake as Michael Moore's documentary 'SiCKO' played on the screen in the sanctuary of the First Universalist Church of Denver. More than 100 people attended the forum hosted by the churches Social Justice Committee, and the group lingered for more than an hour after the film to talk with two of the film's subjects, Larry and Donna Smith, of Aurora, Colorado.
The First Universalist's Social Justice Committee has already endorsed single-payer (publicly funded, privately delivered), universal health care, and the forum was one in a series held to give the community an opportunity to explore the issues. Dave Bean, webmaster for Health Care for All Colorado, was also invited to speak about state efforts to pass a single-payer plan.
The Smiths expressed their gratitude in being able to speak within the Denver faith community where the discussion of universal health care is sometimes not so welcome as the ill-informed or ill-intentioned equate single-payer coverage with socialism or even communism. Some more conservative churches never discuss the subject -- nor would they dare show 'SiCKO' -- lest the right-wing elements go on the attack. But Donna Smith thanked the Universalists for being part of the larger faith community which must speak up on behalf of those who are suffering at the hands of the current health system.
Dave Bean spoke about Colorado's effort at health reform, including the upcoming January 31 report of the blue ribbon commission on health reform to the Colorado state legislature. Though a huge number of Coloradoans attended the commission's public hearings in support of single-payer reform, the commission is poised to recommend mandated insurance coverage as part of their own solution while the state's governor, Bill Ritter, takes care to make only incremental, politically cautious plans for change.
Smith reminded the crowd that there already is national legislation for single-payer reform. HR676, the National Health Insurance Act, already has 87 co-sponsors, though no one from Colorado's delegation, sadly. Smith said those who wonder why their Congressional member does not sign on to HR676 need look no further than their campaign contributors for the reasons. 'Democrat or Republican, some of our leaders are plain bought and paid for,' Smith said. In particular, the group asked about Rep. Diana DeGette, D-CO, and Smith urged the group to look at opensecrets.org
to find all of the more than 400,000 reasons why the popular Colorado Democrat has not co-sponsored HR676 as yet.
Since it was January 13, the Smiths also asked the audience to say a prayer in remembrance of Tracy Pierce, who 'went to sleep' for the last time on January 13, 2006, and then died five days later after having been denied numerous treatments for the kidney cancer that claimed his life. January 13 is also Julie Pierce's (Tracy's widow) birthday. The group spent a few moments in silence. The Pierce's story is also a part of 'SiCKO,' and the Smiths have become dear friends to Julie and Tracy, Jr.
The church will continue its efforts in support of single-payer health care reform in the months to come.
Labels: Bill Ritter, Colorado, Diana DeGette, Donna Smith, HR676, Larry Smith, SiCKO, Tracy Pierce
Sunday, December 23, 2007 11:28 AM
By Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER -- I am the one. 47,000,000 and one. As 2008 dawned, I joined the ranks of those people in our nation who have no health insurance coverage. For the first time in my life, I have no way to seek medical care in this nation. No government program will cover me, and there is no private insurance available to me that I could afford.
In my family, I am the only one now uninsured. Children who make more have good policies and coverage, and even children who make much less qualify for some government help.
My husband is covered by Medicare and by the supplemental plan we carry for him. But I am many years away from qualifying for that program. When I picked his prescriptions up from the pharmacy yesterday, I was grateful to pay just $50 for his portion of that bill.
I have already begun weaning myself off the prescription medications I have. I do not think I can ever get away from the thyroid medication I have taken for many years, but I told the pharmacist to put back another medication last week when I learned it would cost me $30 without coverage. I stopped using the Advair inhaler for my asthma almost three weeks ago, and I will just use the rescue inhalers I have left. And no more cancer checks or preventive care of any kind now until I find a way to secure some coverage.
I heard presidential candidate Mitt Romney say last night that a high percentage of those without health insurance can afford the coverage and just choose not to buy it. I do not believe that. I heard him talk about forcing people to take personal responsibility for their health care costs and coverage. I have done that for all of my adult life. In fact, I made sure all of my six children and my husband never went without coverage, even when some of the children's biological parents remained absent from any effort to support their offspring.
Larry and I came together 32 years ago, each bringing two children to our marriage and each having full custody of those children. We then had two kids together. We worked and had a home and put food on the table for many years before the tsunami of health concerns swept through our lives. By then, thankfully, most of the children were raised. They were spared the front row seats in the collapse.
I remember when my dad was dying from pancreatic cancer almost 13 years ago that I cried out to him as he lay in a coma, "Daddy, please don't leave me here alone." My dad was brave -- a World War II vet who worked hard and gave me a marvelous childhood and a deep faith in God and in the goodness of my country. The loss of his presence in my life has been painful. And the loneliness continues, perhaps deepened now by the realization that my life and the value of my life has been reduced to what an insurance company actuary says and not what I worked for and not what I have achieved.
In the living room, Larry is asleep on the couch -- thank God, he rests. He has gone through so much in the past few years with his health struggles. I cannot sleep well at all now. I wake. I think about the "what ifs" and I worry. I think about 2007 when we appeared in 'SiCKO,' testified before a Congressional sub-committee, and rode a 1980 school bus on a grassroots tour to promote real reform that would save our fellow Americans from our fate.
At a meeting of Colorado health care reform activists yesterday, I heard good and committed folks discussing how to keep political pressure on leaders who don't grasp the depth of the problem. I'll admit, I felt diminished sitting there. I felt like a yoke that weighs on society and on a system gone so wrong. Others can argue from a position of strength and confidence in their positions, and I must argue from a position of weakness and personal fear.
Last night I also listened as presidential candidate John Edwards sought to infuse more passion to his position by saying he understands the plight of the working and middle class in this nation. He proudly pointed out his father in the audience and acknowledged that his family gave him the opportunity to achieve what he has as an adult. He said he wants special interests out of the equation in deciding our national agenda. I'm for that, but I don't see how we can do it when so much money buys so much influence. But somebody has to start somewhere.
So, the journey Larry and I began 32 years ago together with hope and with intensely responsible and committed work will wind down with a very different outcome than we had imagined. We hoped for time to enjoy life and enjoy each other when the back-breaking and mind-numbing work of raising up six children ended. Instead, health concerns zapped that dream and re-routed our plans.
And Daddy left me here after all. But I am not alone. I may be uninsured and unprotected and devalued by the current system. But I am a fighter to the end, and I will continue my life's work to inform every American who still doesn't get it -- presidential candidate or not -- that I am not in this boat because I wanted to be or because I choose to be. I need and want a lifeboat -- the boat I paid for, I changed thousands of diapers for, I cooked meals for, I rode commuter buses to work for, I went to church for, I started cold cars for, I earned my college degree for, I bought insurance for, I paid Congressional salaries for, I fought for -- and that my father risked his life for.
I want what working hard for in America for all of my adult life should have afforded me: just a little peace of mind and to rest next to my husband without terror. I want to know that if I get sick I can go to the doctor. I want a mammogram (now overdue by months). I want the asthma medication that makes me breathe easier. And I do not want the high and mighty judgments of those who never wanted for any of those things.
But most of all I want my now struggling, sometimes cranky love of my life to never, ever think it was his failing that we ended up at this place. I want him to sleep so that when I rise up fighting again in the morning, he has the strength to stand by my side until this battle is won.
Labels: Donna Smith, john edwards, SiCKO
Sunday, November 4, 2007 9:36 AM
By Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER -- 'Tis the season for Christians to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We reflect on that manger scene more than 2,000 years ago, and we look with wonder on all that our faith and the grace of God has given us.
I join in the spirit of this season, but I also feel a sense of loneliness and sadness when I think about what modern day Christianity has proclaimed as the legacy of our Prince of Peace.
Since my husband and I appeared in Michael Moore’s ‘SiCKO’ this year, we have become even more aware of the inconsistencies between Christ’s message of love and healing and what is preached today in many, if not most, Protestant Christian churches in the U.S.
Pastors, including our own in a small Wesleyan church here in Colorado, pray for our troops and for those in war zones thousands of miles away (as well we should) but will not pray for this nation to care for its sick or its poor. Oh, yes, at Christmastime we may take up special offerings for the unfortunates among us, but we dare not talk about the greed and the profit-mongering that strips the weak of any regress or respect.
In the most conservative, right-wing churches, pastors openly pray about political issues, and the anti-abortion issue tops the list of those purported to be the will of God and his son, the Christ child. Apparently, God wants to protect the unborn American babies but cares not about an Iraqi or Afghani child or mother or father. And the Christ touted by this breed of modern Christian would just as soon allow the sick to die as ask each of us to care for one another or truly love one another, as the Bible taught me many years ago.
I have heard a message of universal and loving care for the sick preached in a church in North Carolina where the African American congregation knows more about hurt and suffering than most of my suburban neighbors can even imagine. But in my own church, we whisper about my participation in the movement to provide universal health care to all – we speak in hushed tones as though we fear the godly might learn of a leper in their midst.
But then I remember what a dear friend of ours preached in her church many years ago on Christmas Eve in 1993. We went to church services that evening to try to reconcile our hurt about a horrific crime in our neighborhood pizza parlor, where our young son Russell worked. Four of Russell’s co-workers were shot and killed and another seriously wounded by a disgruntled worker. Russell had just punched out and come home when the former employee staged his rampage. We were so grateful Russ was spared but struggled with the reasons why the others were not.
Mother Carolyn Davis, Episcopal priest, preached that night that Christ was not born into a perfect, sin-free world. No, she said, “Into this mess He was born.” And she said He came to bring hope and love and the message of true peace among all men and women. Into this mess, indeed.
So this year, I welcome my Christ, once again, into this mess where we seem to be so stuck on selfishness and vanity and greed and where we are often so certain that we are better than those who suffer. And I welcome Him again with hope for a brighter future where the principles of his love are not threatening but embraced in a nation and world so deeply in need of healing.
And, yes, I pray for the day when my church family returns to the true meaning of God’s message for all, where healing the sick and loving the poor is a sign of our strength and our love not of our neighbors’ weakness.
Merry Christmas to all my ‘SiCKO’ friends and family. And to my fellow Americans who know in their hearts and souls that we are better people than what we have been showing one another in recent years, I wish us all a more compassionate and a more prosperous new year. I believe the two ideas are forever intertwined, and as a Christian I believe we can share both with one another. In fact, I think that’s what my Christ hoped we would do – even for the least among us.
Labels: Donna Smith, SiCKO
Sunday, October 28, 2007 7:35 PM
By Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER – Being hungry for change is not a new condition for any of us who are struggling with the broken U.S. health care system. Many of us have been physically, mentally and emotionally hungry for many years. And no one has changed the conditions causing that hunger for millions of Americans.
But in one program area, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), we seemed to understand all of the issues. Healthy kids are better for the nation. Many parents work but cannot afford insurance coverage. Sick children dying due to lack of health care access that the nation can afford is really bad PR. So Congress passed that reform in the 1990s, and low-income, working-poor families were able to get coverage for their kids.
In recent weeks, Congress has been trying to reauthorize the SCHIP program. The first bill passed and signed expanded coverage to include 10 million kids, but the president and his loyal followers didn’t like that. First they cited worries about pushing families off private insurance, and then later the tobacco tax included to pay for the expansion was cited as just another tax-and-spend initiative. The president vetoed the bill despite widespread public support for the program and its expansion. And Congress did not have the votes to override that veto.
I have to note that on the same day he vetoed the SCHIP bill, George W. Bush asked Congress for $46 billion more for the Iraq war. So much for objecting to spending.
People protested from coast-to-coast. But that protesting has, so far, not made the difference in this battle for the health of our kids.
Now, Congress has submitted yet another SCHIP bill for the president’s signature. They changed a few items, but not enough according to the president. The second version of the bill will likely also be vetoed.
A few of my friends from ‘SiCKO’ and I decided we wanted to take additional action to support the passage of SCHIP, and we decided a hunger strike would be our protest. Adrian Campbell of Michigan, Reggie Cervantes of Oklahoma (9/11 rescue worker) and I began our liquid fasts on November 1, at midnight. We are taking in only water and non-caloric fluids (like broth).
All three of us know the hunger of choosing between health care and food and other life essentials, and each of us still confronts those trade-offs every day even when not fasting. Sometimes people mistakenly think that just because we were lucky enough to be on the screen in ‘SICKO,’ we were actually lifted out of our struggles. Having one’s story told does not in itself fix the problems. We are all hard-working women who are fighters and survivors.
But we’re staying hungry until there is a SCHIP reauthorization. We will break our strike when Congress passes and the president signs a new bill. If they don’t do that before the holidays, we ask them to temporarily fund the program and then go right back at it immediately upon their return. If they agree to do so, we will break this strike. We object to any measure that would simply fund the program at current levels for a whole year without enhancement just to break the government deadlock. The American people – and our kids – deserve better.
What's our stake in this? Between us, Adrian, Reggie and I have nine children and 13 grands. The time has come for mothers to take a stand. And we are doing so.
Our hunger strike will continue until November 21, unless Congress and the president act sooner. The risk we are taking seems like nothing compared to what millions face in our health care system every day, and we pray that our government recognizes that and acts sooner rather than later.
Labels: Adrian Campbell, Donna Smith, Reggie Cervantes, SCHIP
Thursday, October 18, 2007 1:47 PM
If we just started counting in March 2003 when the Iraq war began, the U.S. health care crisis battle would already have 82,500 dead. Maybe someday we'll build a wall or a monument. By Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER – With more than 50 Americans dead every day due to a lack of adequate health care, the health care reform movement has all the dead bodies it needs to meet the demands of an outraged public. Yet the movement for true health care reform does not yet garner the attention of nearly as many people as the anti-Iraq war effort.
The fact is that more than 82,500 Americans have died as the result of our broken health care system since the Iraq war began in the spring of 2003. We’re racking up the health care casualties as fast as if we had fought 22 Iraq wars during the same time period. Yet, why don’t the dead matter as much in this battle?
I wonder if some day we’ll build a wall and list all the names of the health care crisis dead. It would be quite a large wall. We have far more names already than the Vietnam conflict. And the people are dying right next door and down the block and in our neighborhoods and communities. I wonder if my name will be on that wall.
Is it because the health care war dead are the uninsured and underinsured? Have we already judged those dead as somehow complicit in their own demise? Have we written them off as folks who were too irresponsible, too stupid or just too unlucky to take better care of themselves? Where the hell is our survivors’ guilt?
I went to an anti-war rally in downtown Denver on Saturday. It was one of many across the nation. It was a powerful gathering with lots of committed people speaking out and some even saying if we’d just stop funding the war we would put that money toward health care or education or other domestic issues. There were hundreds of people with signs and showing great and appropriate remorse for America’s war dead and for all the Iraqi citizens killed.
Then I went to a health care forum. There were nine people there. They were committed. They were concerned. But they were still talking strategy and how to overcome political hurdles and how to grow the movement. Apparently none of us has been smart enough to figure out why more than 82,500 dead Americans does not strike a loud enough chord over the past five years.
And talk about financial waste? Ugh. This clearly is not even the most economical way to handle health care. You see, greed does not really care about the nation’s health at all.
One way we will make that number of health care dead more tangible is to actually assign names to it. That’s what Michael Moore did in 'SiCKO.' He put names and faces with the numbers. I didn’t notice too many slackers or deadbeats among my fellow Americans on that screen.
But, it has been hard work over the past few months to keep reminding people who just haven’t touched it or felt it or internalized it yet, that this crisis is one of those cases that unless we all speak up now, unless we speak for our neighbors in their times of health care trauma and pain, then when our time comes, there may be no one left to speak for us.
So, here we stand with Congress and the president and their failure to agree upon and pass the SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program). Because they’ll be rushing to get to Thanksgiving break, it is likely now that Bush will veto the latest Congressional bill, Congress will once again fail to override the veto and Congress will have to write some continuing resolution legislation to fund the current program for a year. No one will have reached any sort of compromise.
And people – this time very young Americans – will continue to die as Congress pats itself on the back for trying and the president praises himself for holding those nasty lefties at bay. And kids will die. I guess we better get busy on that monument, eh?
Working families that cannot afford health insurance or health care will wait for treatment until diseases and illnesses have advanced. But we all know that, and most of us will turn away from the pain of it and make our holiday shopping lists. Maybe we’ll offer to buy Christmas gifts for a poor child. And we’ll sleep better for that.
But I am joining two of my fellow moms from ‘SiCKO,’ and we’re going on a hunger strike for health care. We want to raise the stakes of the discussion a bit more. We want others to know that we once risked our lives to bring our children into this world, and we will risk them again to make sure they are not casualties of the U.S. health care crisis.
I surely want the Iraq war to end. I hate thinking about the death and the destruction. But I want this completely preventable health care crisis to end too. I think about those 82,500 Americans dead. I think about the kids, the moms, the dads, the folks who did nothing worse than getting sick and being too broke to buy back their health.
And I hope as I make my way through my days of hunger striking that I will spend one minute each half-hour thinking about and praying for the American out there somewhere who is dying at that moment without access to adequate health care. It turns out I’m not very hungry anyway when I think about that.For more information about the hunger strike, visit American Patients for Universal Health Care
Labels: APUHC, Donna Smith, Iraq War, Universal Healthcare
Thursday, October 4, 2007 3:00 PM
Gregory Hampton, 15, of Denver, won't have proper health coverage. He's one of our 'good' kids -- great grades, works a job and helps care for his siblings while both parents work. And he's my grandson. How do I explain to Gregory that he isn't worth our best efforts? I won't. But I will fight to my death for his future. He deserves my best.By Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER -- So, President Bush vetoes the State Children’s Health Insurance Program expansion and Congress fails to override that veto. So this is our government? No, it is not. It may be the insurance companies’ government and the health care profiteers’ government, but it sure as hell isn’t mine.
This government tries to protect life in the womb but devalues that life once a child is born and fails to provide basic health care for working-class children. That’s not my government.
This government doesn’t value my work ethic or my determination to provide for myself. Since I am among those classified as the “working poor,” I can fend for myself for health care coverage. That’s not my government.
This government does an awful lot of finger-pointing about who’s to blame for what but never watches out for my health care needs. It’s a weak Congress. It’s a bumbling administration or worse – it’s a selfish one. That’s not my government.
This government wants working parents not to have enough money to buy homes or new cars or other consumer goods because they must pay huge premiums for sub-standard health care and coverage. That’s not my government.
This government is full of those claiming patriotism and love of family while ignoring families sinking into economic ruin due to health costs and coverage. That’s not my government.
This government is full of those proclaiming love for humankind while failing to protect even the youngest and most vulnerable in our own society. That’s not my government.
This government is full of Bible-thumping Christians who display judgmental and cruel tendencies very opposite what the Christ I learned about would ask of us. That’s not my government.
This government will not change and will not represent its people because it is built on arrogance of self rather than being of and by the people. And that’s not my government.
This vote today has made me more angry and more determined than ever. This is not just about the kids, fellow Americans. It is about what we collectively need to say to these people we elected. And if they cannot and will not hear us – as they demonstrated today – then we must clean house. Top to bottom, Repubs and Dems, out the door, to the curb and back to the people.
I have had enough. I have been ignored enough. My vote and my taxes have been abused enough. My voice matters. I am an American woman with a brain and a heart and a God. And I want my country back.
Labels: Donna Smith, SCHIP
Wednesday, September 19, 2007 5:25 PM
By Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER – Disgusting. That’s all I could think as I watched today in early October as Republican Congressman Roy Blunt and Democratic Congressman Steny Hoyer planned to recess the U.S. House of Representatives by Nov. 16, with the goal to stay recessed until well after Christmas. Wow, nice work if you can get it.
But what really is horrifying is that as our members of Congress adjourn this session, they will leave millions of Americans in peril. These Americans are not unknown to them – they are those who are uninsured and under-insured for health care needs. And between November 16, 2007, and January 1, 2008, more than 2,300 more of these Americans will die because they didn’t have adequate health care.
All members of Congress will fill their bellies on Thanksgiving Day secure in the knowledge that if they become ill while out on recess, they will be well cared for. And as the Hanukkah season, Christmas, Kwanzaa and other religious celebrations approach, these same members of Congress will rest safely in that assurance as they pray for peace on earth.
But what will those weeks and months be like for the uninsured and the under-insured who are ill? Those weeks will be filled with anything but peace and security. There will be illnesses and injuries that will go untreated and undiagnosed – and some will become fatal. Coughing, fevers, seizures, depression, tumors, strokes, heart and chest pain, ear aches, rashes, vomiting, crying out for help that never comes – that will be quite a nice holiday season, don’t you think?
Unpaid medical bills and debt collectors calling – mortgages going unpaid and boxes being packed in anticipation of the eviction notices. That’s what fear and want is like, ladies and gentlemen of Congress.
It isn’t as if members of Congress haven’t had time to work on the health care crisis. It didn’t exactly sneak up on us all. They have failed to act for a very long time. They are selfish and incapable of empathizing with the people they are charged to represent.
I am ashamed of this Congress. They are not working hard to address the needs of the American people. And they aren’t even acting as though they are aware we elected them. We gave them the right to adjourn for a nice, happy holiday season. And they took us up on that. They just never heard our other demands. They weren’t listening.
Send your members of Congress a greeting card and remind them of the death toll during their recess. Maybe, just maybe, they'll return ready to seriously consider HR676, Medicare for All. Better yet, maybe they'll call Rep. John Conyers' office before they leave and ask to co-sponsor. That would be a gift to us all.
Labels: Donna Smith, HR676
Tuesday, September 18, 2007 10:27 AM
American Patients for Universal Health Care hosts first national action
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Around the country on Sept. 28, advocates for universal single-payer health care will be attending vigils to show support for the families who have lost loved ones because they lacked health insurance.
American SiCKO Donna Smith, also Colorado Progressive Democrats of America (PDA
) Congressional District Point Person and PDA Health care for All/Single-Payer Issue Organizing Team member has established American Patients for Universal Health Care (APUHC
Smith and her husband Larry will join Julie Pierce in Washington D.C. for the Tracy Pierce Memorial Candlelight Vigil on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Friday, Sept. 28 at sunset. Julie is Tracy's widow, and also tells her story in 'SiCKO.' "Tracy died of kidney cancer at age 37 after repeated denials for life-saving treatment by our insurance carrier." Tracy, Sr., also left behind his 15 year old son, Tracy, Jr., and Julie promised "the fight would not end with his death."
Also on hand will be Dawnelle Keys, who appears in 'SiCKO' and who lost her beautiful little girl Mychelle when an 'out of network' hospital denied the toddler life-saving emergency care.
Joining Julie, Dawnelle, Donna and Larry will be another American SiCKO Adrian Campbell of Detroit who, along with her beautiful little girl, Aurora, has been fighting for care and benefits for so long that they have resorted to slipping over the US-Canadian border for care when needed.
John Graham, 9/11 rescue worker and American SiCKO, will also travel to Washington, D.C., from his home in New Jersey to join in this call for national action. If universal, single-payer health care was in place, thousands of 9/11 heroes would be receiving medical care for a wide range of serious illnesses related to their heroic service at ground zero.
APUHC was established to draw attention to this national crisis that leaves over 18,000 Americans dead annually because they lack health insurance, or because the insurer refuses to approve treatment. Before the next presidential election, approximately 25,000 more Americans will die simply because they did not have adequate health care coverage. Countless others will suffer.
"By holding vigils in cities across the country, we hope to highlight the fact that more American have died in this country than have died on the battlefield in Iraq in the last four years," said Smith. "Americans should be just as outraged over these deaths as they are outraged over Iraq." It is hoped that the vigils will move the issue front and center in the minds of voters.
ACTIONS OUTSIDE WASHINGTON:In Denver
, the "Vigil for Health Care Justice" will take place on the west steps of the Capitol building, Sept. 28 at sunset. They will draw attention to Paul Hannum, who will not be present because he lost his life to appendicitis, and little Thomas Wilkes, a toddler, who will live as long as his parents have the financial resources to continue his life-saving treatments.In Chicago
, from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, Thompson Center Plaza at Clark and Randolph, CSPAN (Chicago Single-Payer Action Network) will host another vigil and welcome Steve Skvara, the brave union man who asked the Democratic presidential candidates ho he was supposed to cover himself and his wife based on the current health care crisis. Also speaking to the Chicago crowd will be Illinois Rep. Mary Flowers,main sponsor of the Illinois State Bill HB311 "Medicare for All," which has close to 70 co-sponsors.In Kansas City
, a solidarity vigil is planned for 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, at the southeast corner of the Russell Majors Waddell Park, located on 83rd Street between Ward Parkway and State Line Rd. Near Coventry Insurance Company (the company that denied Tracy Pierce a bone marrow transplant). Tracy Pierce, Jr., will be attending as will other members of the Pierce family.
Plans are also being made in Detroit Michigan and Florida. APUHC is targeting these states: Ohio, California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, Hawaii, Texas and Georgia for vigils, and hopes that other states will join in the effort.
For more information or to get help planning a solidarity vigil, contact Donna at AUPHC.com
Labels: APUHC, Dawnelle Keys, Donna Smith, John Graham, Julie Pierce, SiCKO, Tracy Pierce
Thursday, September 13, 2007 9:38 AM
By Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER -- What can I say? Hillary's long-awaited plan for health care reform is out, and it is just what I expected. It is not what I hoped for or what I prayed she had the courage to stand for, but it is in her best interests.
If she is to be elected our first woman president, she'll have to side with some of the big boys rather than stand up with we common folk. That's the political reality. And the Clintons have always been masters of the political reality.
So, we'll have universal, mandated coverage along with insurance reform, she says. Really? So let me get this straight. We all will have to buy an insurance policy, the insurance companies will have to take us even with pre-existing conditions and American business will get help with insurance costs. What's not to love for the big boys in the health industry?
Insurance companies will have a much larger customer base, revenue stream (oh, yeah, I mean risk pool) and much higher income. Hillary's plan does not say that every American will have access to the same care or coverage. The plan will still embrace and actually enhance the multi-tiered system which gives the best of care to those who can afford the best and the minimal care to those who cannot afford it.
The insurance companies will not be forced to provide the same coverage for all groups of risk. Prices will vary, plan-to-plan, and when you get sick, you will still be treated according to what your plan covers or doesn't. Providers (hospitals, doctors and clinics) are probably holding joint celebrations with their insurance and pharmaceutical friends. Hillary's plan enriches them tremendously.
Hillary seems to speak and write all the right types of messages about caring for every man, woman and child. But when the nuts and bolts of the plan are flushed out, the average American family with an average income will still not be protected from underinsurance and financial ruin in the event of serious illness.
Make no mistake, Hillary's plan is not universal health care. Nor as was depicted on CNN last evening are "dancing socialists" lining up to support this plan -- it isn't even remotely socialized medicine. The plan allows a systematic and horrifying blend of entanglements that leaves the best care for the wealthy under the guise of concern. I really don't like that sort of mind-game.
As for me, I still cannot get over why all of these brilliant people who now sit in powerful Senate seats and could be working for change now are allowed by we the people to plan for the future health care reform effort when they aren't even committed enough to work hard on it now.
The simple answer is the one the rich and the powerful have always understood in this nation. You don't get re-elected if you upset the folks who fund your re-election efforts. And you certainly don't get elected president if you make enemies of the most powerful lobbyists in this nation. The people be damned. It's the money, stupid.
And who do I want to be president? I don't know yet -- and that's a long way off. I'd like Hillary and her presidential-hopeful friends to tell me what they plan to do about the 50 Americans who will die today for a lack of care. Or explain to me why they are willing to allow another 25,000 to die in the months prior to the election before they might even touch the health care reform plans they all speak of now. None of them ever answers that kind of question.
Labels: Donna Smith, Hillary Clinton, SiCKO
Wednesday, September 5, 2007 6:59 PM
As reported by Dawnelle Keys, Julie Pierce and Donna Smith
SACRAMENTO -- California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had an aide tell three women featured in 'SiCKO' they were rude to request a moment of the governor’s time. Dawnelle Keyes, Julie Pierce and Donna Smith stood politely at the office door of California’s leader and waited for a response to their request for a meeting.
California state troopers guarded the door to the governor’s office and sternly protected Schwarzenegger from the three women as staffers passed in and out of the office, some glancing, some laughing but all ignoring the three private citizens the governor did not wish to see.
They filled out written requests two days in a row and were rebuffed two days in a row by Arnold’s staff members. They wanted to see the governor because California’s legislators passed a bill (AB8) which would wildly enrich private insurance companies, but called the measure “universal health care.”
But the governor just didn't have time to meet with them - he claimed to be too busy for 30 seconds to listen to any information from the 'SiCKO' trio, who know first hand the damage our profit-driven health care system can cause. He did, however, have time for some photo opportunities with children and business interests.
The three women did exactly as they were told by the governor’s guards. They called a phone number on a business card given to them by a trooper. After making their way through the menu options – including number three which would have told them the latest news on Maria Shriver – the women finally reached a staff aide who said, “Don’t you think it’s rude to request a meeting with the governor on such short notice?” The women did not feel they had been rude at all. The staffer asked for a cell phone number but then chastised the women for not speaking fast enough, “Look, I need the number quickly,” he said. The 'SiCKO' women are pretty sure he never wrote down that number.
Funny, the 'SiCKO' women thought they all worked for the people of the state of California. Look at the governor’s website. He calls himself “The People’s Governor.” He just doesn’t really want to be all the people’s governor.
All three of these women are victims of the brutal system the governor wants to expand and reward. All three were in Sacramento to be honored for their courage in telling their stories in Michael Moore's film and for continuing their fight for reform.
Call and write the governor of California. He has called a special legislative session to make sure legislators give him all that he wants and all that he has promised special interest groups on health care reform. But it’s a ruse. It’s a scam. And it’s not what Californians need or want.
The plan the governor will push through is one he has carefully crafted for the wealthiest few who do have an audience with him, including his friends in the insurance industry. And many California legislators are too weak and frightened to respond.
Let’s tell him that it’s not rude to ask for his time. Call 916-445-2841 or visit the website at http://gov.ca.gov/.
Labels: Dawnelle Keys, Donna Smith, Julie Pierce, SiCKO
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 11:21 PM
...an open letter to the U.S. Senate from Donna Smith, American SiCKO
Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), waving from the floor of the Senate on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007, anticipates running for re-election next year.
DENVER – It was a moving scene. Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota returned to the U.S. Senate yesterday, nine months after suffering a brain hemorrhage that nearly took his life.
I vividly remember that day. I was working at a contract position here in Denver when someone came out of our break room and said some Senator from South Dakota had a stroke or something. My stomach flipped. We had just moved from South Dakota weeks before, and Tim Johnson was one of my U.S. Senators.
When I arrived home that day to my daughter's home where we were living in a small storage room, a handwritten note was waiting in her mailbox for me. It was to me from Sen. Tim Johnson. The irony of receiving that note on that day was spooky for me. The note is on his U.S. Senate note paper, and he thanked me for my efforts to be a fair reporter in western South Dakota where most media leans heavily and easily to the far right. I still have that note and will treasure it always. It wasn't easy to report on any Democrat in western South Dakota, and it was kind of him to acknowledge that fact.
But now it is months later. I have been in Michael Moore's 'SiCKO' and to Cuba for health care, and Sen. Johnson and his family have been through hell and back with his brain injury. Both of our families have much yet to endure.
I listened to his statement today and marveled at his courage. How many of us would step to that microphone and do what he did and what he had obviously fought to do with every fiber of his body. Every American should take great comfort that among all the terrible falsehoods and shams we watch unfold from Washington, these few moments were very human and very American – in the best senses of both.
In part, Sen. Johnson said, "But I return to work today to this great body with a renewed spirit and a sharper focus. I better appreciate today what individuals and families go through when they face crippling hardship – whether that hardship be the consequence of catastrophic health issues, economic hardship, or lack of an opportunity to reach one's full potential in life.
"I believe I have been given a second chance at life. I vow to take that second chance and work harder than ever to be the best I can be for my state and for my nation; to be a voice for those individuals and families who too often are ignored or forgotten; and to fight to live up to the ideals that have made this nation great. That is my focus and that is my commitment to my constituents back home in South Dakota, to the people of this great nation, and to my colleagues here in Washington." When he finished his statement, you, his colleagues stood and honored him with applause, as well you should.
Then our Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, spoke. In his moving tribute to his friend and fellow Democrat, Sen. Reid shared a truth that might have been lost on some but that seared at my heart and soul like a hot knife.
In praising Sen. Johnson's doctors and acknowledging the serendipity that allowed his medical crisis to occur when and where it did, Sen. Reid inadvertently highlighted some of the very issues the rest of us out in America face today.
Reid said that if the hemorrhage had occurred one day later, Johnson might have been on an airplane bound for South Dakota. OK, that would be bad. It would have taken precious time for a plane to land and for care to reach my Senator. He might have died or had a very bad outcome indeed.
But then Reid added that if the crisis had occurred two days later, Johnson might have been on an Indian reservation. Oooh, now that's not good. Everybody knows that having a medical emergency on one of the nation's Indian reservations would necessarily mean pretty lousy chances for high quality trauma care or even minimal stabilization of a medical emergency.
So, my good Senators, Sen. Johnson was blessed to have his emergency in Washington, near an awesome medical facility with doctors who were top-notch and able to work with the best of the best to save his life and to save his brain so we could applaud him today.
Most Americans are not so lucky. We don't have the insurance benefits and access to quality care that saved Sen. Johnson's life and brain. And the kicker still is that we – the American taxpayer and voters – give you – our Congressional members – better benefits at better prices and therefore a better chance for life than we even demand for ourselves.
I would like to hold Sen. Johnson to the words he spoke today and challenge him to work now on bringing the health care crisis in this nation forward once again in the Senate. He has a unique perspective and a unique opportunity – perhaps a God-given opportunity to argue that he values the health and lives of his constituents and of everyday Americans just as much as he does his own. In my heart, I know he does.
Now I just need to find out if he has the courage to stand up and say it in spite of the re-election race decision looming in the not-too-distant future.
A U.S. filmmaker from Flint, Michigan offers a proposal on his website that would give every American access to health care benefits like those given to every member of Congress – for free.
I would like to challenge Sen. Johnson and the rest of the U.S. Senate to read The Michael Moore Health Care Proposal
. Give it your own touches and introduce it in legislation. Let the courage and compassion that exists in America guide you to bringing this discussion into the Senate before another year and another election cycle – and the deaths of 18,000 more Americans – passes.
This nation needs health care reform now, please help us.
U.S. Senator Tim Johnson's note to American SiCKO Donna Smith:
Labels: Donna Smith
Wednesday, August 15, 2007 11:38 AM
By Donna Smith, American SiCKO, and Founder, American Patients for Universal Health Care
DENVER – In the business section of the Rocky Mountain News
on Tuesday, I read a disturbing article. It read, in part:Physicians are squeezing in more patients for smaller pay increases, according to an annual survey of doctors' salaries.
Median compensation for primary-care physicians rose only 2 percent to $171,519 last year, falling behind the 3.2 percent inflation increase in 2006, according to the Medical Group Management Association. Specialists reported an even lower rate of median compensation gains, with a 1.7 percent overall increase to $322,259.
Doctors are increasingly squeezed by soaring costs and declining payments from insurers and Medicare. The slipping salaries came as primary-care physicians reported a 3.7 percent increase in gross charges, while specialists charged 2.3 percent more.
"Patients can expect to feel the pinch right along with practices as physicians in some specialties see more patients each day for incongruous pay," said William Jessee, president and CEO of Arapahoe County-based MGMA.
But the bad, sad news for docs didn’t end there. The article continued: Some specialists fared worse than others. Salaries for invasive cardiologists dropped 1.3 percent to $457,563, while opthalmologists reported the survey's biggest drop with a 1.6 percent loss in pay to $297,486.
Wait, now let me get this straight. The doctors are unhappy because their salaries didn’t rise enough. And who is going to pay for their discomfort and suffering? Patients. Once again, American patients will pay more for less. And we will do so until we break the cycle by demanding universal, single-payer care for every American.
My husband Larry, another American SiCKO, is working on seeing a cardiologist who supports universal health care because of what that support says about the physicians' motivations, but that's not easy. Physicians for a National Health Program
only has three cardiologists as members listed as living in Colorado, and one of them has already retired. Cardiologists are rather fond of the current health care funding system and many would be even more happy with mandates that every American purchase insurance. The pool of potential Larrys would grow exponentially.
But back to the issue at hand. I am so sorry Larry’s cardiologist will only push half-a-million in salary this year. With his investments in hospitals, clinics and his huge group practice, he might not even clear a million. It’s gonna be tough for him. The multiple buildings that house the various locations for the Aurora-Denver Cardiology
practice group cost an awful lot to operate and manage. And the facilities are not green by any means, so those energy costs must also be nipping at the heels of the group's profits.
But what is going to be tougher is what Larry will face even more of in the doctor’s office: less time with the physician and higher costs.
Larry provides a healthy revenue stream for specialists wherever he goes. With coronary and peripheral artery disease, he provides a plethora of opportunities for increased profits.
His hips and legs have been hurting for years. Whenever he walks more than about 100 feet, pain begins that is only relieved by resting only to begin again with the next short walk. First, the cardiologist referred him to the vascular specialist to check for claudication. Larry has already had two surgeries on his iliac arteries to relieve blockage, but the pain always returns.
The vascular doc charges him plenty and sends him to an orthopedic doc who does not even complete an examination but orders an MRI and charges $300 for the one minute “interview” he has with Larry. He concludes that Larry’s back is fine (he didn’t order an MRI of the hips as he doesn’t treat hips), so when Larry asks “What about my hips?” the response is to refer him yet again.
By the time he has served his time in the whirling dervish of money-making specialty groups, Larry has seen four specialists (a cardiologist, a vascular surgeon, a orthopedic doctor and a neurologist) a total of eight times, has had only one hands-on physical exam and his insurance (Medicare and Humana supplemental policy) have been billed for more than $3,500. And there is no diagnosis. His hips still hurt when he walks. He has contributed mightily to the income of these docs, and they have contributed nothing but frustration and more pain to him.
Now these same specialists are sad about their salary increases for last year, and so Larry will get even less care? And more charges? Wild way to do business.
But what did PT Barnum say about a patient – oops, I mean a sucker -- born every minute? Was he a cardiologist?
By the way, Larry is switching all of his cardiology business (and the insurance payments) to a cardiologist who supports single-payer, universal health care. He thinks other patients should do the same. Let's walk the walk together.
Labels: APUHC, Donna Smith, Larry Smith, PNHP, SiCKO
Tuesday, July 24, 2007 4:17 PM
Part 3: 'SiCKO' Seeds an Expanding Movementby Donna Smith, American SiCKO
DENVER -- Today I heard about another incredible post-'SiCKO' event in Seattle. Over 200 people packed the largest room at Seattle Central Community College to hear from a panel of inspirational caregivers, activists, and public health advocates. John Geyman of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) spoke as well as a nurse whose experiences left people in tears.
A volunteer who traveled to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina also spoke at the gathering. She sustained major burns from a propane accident and with no insurance, is now thousands in debt. That sounded all too familiar after watching the 9/11 first responders' stories in 'SiCKO.'
The panel was a success, not only because of the wonderful speakers who were able to tie together different aspects of public health, but because of the overwhelming number of energized people who were ready to become an active part of the movement for universal healthcare.
How awesome is this? From one Washington to the other. People are organizing for change and for action.
Before I left Washington, D.C., I sat back and marveled at the beginnings of this social revolution and how a movie like 'SiCKO' can play a role in that process. Will my generation finally take its blinders off, step up to the plate yet again and come back to the political table in force? "Make Love Not War," we cried so long ago. Are we now ready to cry “Health Care Not Warfare?”
As I sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking out over the Mall and the Reflecting Pool, I imagined what Martin Luther King, Jr., saw all those years ago. A sea of people – a sea of Americans -- joined to rally for change. It did not happen overnight. King’s dream of a better nation continues to fuel a passion for political activism, a non-violent transformation and reclamation of government by and for the people.
'SiCKO' is drawing us out of our homes and drawing many of us out of our shame and despair. And the tide is rising from coast to coast. People leave movie theaters energized for change and angry at delay.
Join up with one of the groups out there working or start your own and connect with us.
We stand at the ready from sea-to-shining-sea, waiting for our opportunity to take to the streets joined together to see that the human right of health care is granted to every American.
Here’s a partial list of groups so you – yes, you – can join in this movement. It’s time to reclaim America.
2. Physicians for a National Health Program
3. Progressive Democrats of America
4. Code Pink
5. California Nurses Association
- American Patients for Universal Health Care - email firstname.lastname@example.org
Labels: CNA, Code Pink, Donna Smith, HealthCare-Now, PDA, PNHP, ROOT, 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
Monday, July 2, 2007 6:39 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
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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