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
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
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