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
Wednesday, October 3, 2007 6:51 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
Wednesday, September 19, 2007 5:25 PM
Adrian Campbell at a Peace Rally. Adrian is organizing the Michigan Chapter of the American Patients for Universal Health Care
DETROIT -- GM may close yet another plant and retirees may now live in fear about the long-term viability of their benefits -- all thanks to the recent strike settlement agreement which, once again, will see Michigan families put in peril. So one young Michigan resident is determined to help out on her home state turf where she fears the future may be slipping away.
On Thursday October 4th, 2007, join with other concerned Michigan citizens at the AMC Movie Theatre in Sterling Heights, for a showing of 'SiCKO' at 7:20 p.m. The theatre is located at 44681 Mound Rd. Sterling Heights, MI, 48314.
The Michigan Chapter of the American Patients for Universal Health Care (apuhc.com
)is underway, and will start out by inviting GM and UAW retirees to this 'SiCKO' showing, along with anyone else who has not seen the film. The Michigan Chapter is being started by American SiCKO Adrian Campbell, whose mother and father are recent GM retirees. Adrian loves her home state and worries about her parents and about the future for her own daughter.
The lack of universal health care and the ensuing health care costs crisis has added to not only the woes of many Michigan families, according to Adrian, but has also forced the U.S. auto industry into terrible agreements and strategies just to stay afloat at all. Michigan, once the proud center of the nation's powerful and thriving auto-making giants, has endured shot after shot of bad news and trauma -- all of which places the state's residents even more prominently in the front of the battle to stop the madness and fix the health care system.
Adrian will be at the showing and hopes we can pack the theatre full. in addition to her worries about her parents and her home state, Adrian is deeply dismayed by George Bush's veto of the SCHIP bill extension. "The kids," said Adrian, "He cannot even cover the kids."
A website is in development for the Michigan chapter, but until it is up and ready, folks can visit www.apuhc.com. Adrian hopes to help those recent retirees of GM and those who have lost their jobs in Michigan and have no insurance or access to health care. This is an organization for health care patients - their families and friends - united in support for guaranteed universal health care for every American.
Labels: Adrian Campbell, GM, Michigan, SiCKO, UAW
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
Friday, September 7, 2007 1:19 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
Contibuted by Adrian Campbell, American SiCKO
DETROIT -- Hey, it's Adrian here. Kyle and I are still working on this Canuck-Yankee relationship, and I'm still looking for a better job since I was fired for being un-American by appearing in 'SiCKO
My little girl, Aurora, is doing OK, but friends and family have to help me find a way to get the tubes in her ears that she needs. It really hurts to have to beg for health care. But you all know about that.
Last night, I got an email from a Canadian man who wants to support the effort for the U.S. Congress to pass HR676
, Rep. John Conyers', D-MI, bill to give every American health care.
Below is the message, and I thought it was especially fitting for 9/11:Dear Adrian,
For the last 20 years, I have worked for two companies that write software for public transits agencies .
Most of our clients are American Public Transit Agency which include New Jersey Transit, Pierce Transit (Tacoma Washington), Metro-Dade Transit (Miami Florida), COTA (Columbus Ohio), SORTA (Cincinnati Ohio) and Ride Smart (who provide public transit for Wayne, ma comb and Oakland Countries in Michigan.
I have traveled many times to my American clients over the years. They are great people, and we would sometime go to hockey and baseball games after work. There are just a few other which I did not write software for but other people in the company did -- (those firms were in) Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, and many others which I cannot remember.
I guess about 90 percent of my income over the last 20 years has come from work I did for my American clients. I owe the American people a big debt for providing me with a good paying job for the last 20 years. I got this job just a few months after graduating from Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. I live just outside of Hamilton, Ontario. Your guy friend will know where these places are... just west of Toronto.
I am trying to repay this debt to the American people by in any way I can helping to get HR676 passed. On YouTube I leave comments saying that HR676 is the solution to the healthcare problems in America.
I also emailed Reggie from 'SiCKO' to tell her to thank all the 9/11 workers for searching for remains of my fellow Canadians. There were about 20 Canadians who died in the WTC on 9/11. I know at least the remains of one Canadian were found, and he has been buried next to his parents grave in Mississauga, Ontario.
I also saw the last YouTube video of your burning all your things from Meijer's.
Good luck with your fight for HR676. I look forward to day when the president of the United States of America signs the bill HR676 and it becomes law and all Americans will have health insurance just like we have in Canada.
Labels: 9/11 responders, Adrian Campbell, SiCKO
Thursday, August 23, 2007 4:26 PM
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
Monday, August 20, 2007 1:26 PM
By Rev. Andy Bales, President, Union Rescue Mission and American SiCKO
LOS ANGELES -- I usually do not struggle with a theme to blog about, but this week each time I tried to prepare and write, my heart hurt a bit too much to get it out. Even as I was interviewed by the LA Times writer, I couldn’t get out the word ‘involving’ as tears came to my eyes when I said, “We are used to tragedies, but not … babies.”
The thought of a two-month-old baby dying overnight at Union Rescue Mission was too much for me to bear, but that is the news I received over the phone on the day we were getting ready to celebrate my son’s wedding out of state. I hope I held up well during what should have been a happy day in my family and the happiest day in my son’s life, but I have to admit I was extremely broken-hearted for the precious baby, her mom, and for all involved.
All of the details are not in, but what we do know is that our staff -- concerned for the baby’s health and safety -- called the Child Abuse hotline Tuesday morning and the Department of Children and Family Services showed up on Wednesday to connect with the mom and child but could not find her. So, DCFS came back on Thursday and connected with mom and baby, but did not decide to take the baby into protective foster care. Early Friday morning, the young mom dressed her baby, as if she was still alive, and tried to leave the building quietly in the early morning hours. Our staff was alerted and stopped the mom at the door.
Meanwhile, a Department of Children and Family Services staff member was in our elevator on her way to see mom with an order to take the baby into custody and the police had been called, but it was too late to save baby Jasmine’s life or prevent tragedy from striking this young mom and Union Rescue Mission.
Last Saturday at 6:00 a.m., I awakened to a phone call from a concerned lady from Tennessee –Jasmine’s aunt – and I then realized the story had broken into the news. I tried to quickly wake myself up and console the sister, after which, I came down to work to await the throng of media that might show up at the Mission. Jasmine’s aunt sent pictures of the young lady during a happier time in her life, showing a young beautiful mom who had been a successful Atlanta businesswoman before struggling with bipolar disease, leaving home for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, but only to find the mean streets of Skid Row - my heart was even more broken for this family.
I went out and searched the streets for the young mom, now childless and apparently wandering the mean streets yet again, as I hoped to connect her with her family, someone who could help her through this horrible circumstance, but I could not find her.
Some want to blame the social worker, some want to blame DCFS, while others want to cast all of the blame and responsibility on the young mom. We at Union Rescue Mission have decided to mourn for the precious baby, weep for the young mom, pray for those who are dealing with the load and burden of guilt, encourage our staff to not grow weary in doing good, and shape future policy to make sure not one child ever slips through the cracks again.
Here is the note that I sent to our staff. Keep us all in your thoughts and prayers.
I always pass good news in the media about URM, and so I also feel obligated to share some heartbreaking news in today's LA Times. As I said in the article, we are going to step up our efforts to be extra vigilant and diligent to connect families with County Workers and get children full health screenings right away, in order to make sure we never suffer such a loss again, but our staff did take the action that could have saved this precious child, and I am thankful for all of your hard work and ministry here at Union Rescue Mission. Please take time to weep and mourn this tragic loss, but do not grow weary in doing good.
I am honored and blessed to serve here with you.
Galatians 6:9 (ESV)
9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Philippians 4:5-7 (ESV)
5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Your Co-worker in Christ, Andy B.
Labels: andy bales, SiCKO, union rescue mission
Wednesday, August 15, 2007 11:38 AM
By Dawnelle Keys, American SiCKO
LOS ANGELES -- Life was hard for me after Mychelle died. She was the only girl in the family since I was born.
My mother has nine grandsons now so you could imagine how happy the family was to have a girl. It devastated the whole family when we lost her. She was my little angel when she was born and she had such a beautiful smile and a warming spirit. I had to deal with the fact that I had to still celebrate Mychelle's birthday Oct. 10 every year without her.
But I still needed and wanted to be there for my son Devion who shares the same birth date but is four years older. Mychelle and Devion were just like twins, and when she died he knew instinctively though he wasn't even at the hospital with us. My sister in-law said he let out a scream at the exact time his little sister went into cardiac arrest, and my mother’s neighbor came to check on him. He still struggles with it everyday.
For me it was a struggle to get up in the morning and go to work and face life without her. I was placed on medication and excused from work for five months.
But the medicine was Prozac, and I became so depressed that I was to the point that I did not want to live and even thought of suicide.
A family friend called and questioned me because she had heard I was acting strange, and she asked about my medication. Once I told her I was on Prozac she suggested that I call the doctor and request to be taken off of it. She worked for a law firm that was handling cases where people on Prozac had attempted and some committed suicide and even worse – some committed murder. That phone call is what saved my life, and I know I would not be here today had God not sent my angel through my friend on the other end of that phone.
Well I phoned the doctor and he only wanted to reduce my dosage, so
it was up to just me and God. I asked him to deliver me without any ill side
Now not a day goes by that I don't think of Mychelle, but it's not a struggle
because I know there was a purpose and reason why she left us. I could not
see it then but now I know that she left us so that we could make a better life
for those who are in the same position as I was in.
My faith is so strong and I know that God does not make mistakes. Even when we were in the ambulance on our way to Kaiser, I kept talking to my little girl and even though she did not answer me with words, but with moans, she was at peace and with God.
That's how I’ve been able to make it this far. My trust in people has not changed, but when I deal with people in the health care field I have a total different opinion.
I had the chance to experience it once again when my son Devion was involved in a roll-over accident last year. I was not allowed to see him until I gave them my insurance card and was told he had a head injury.
Once I spoke with the doctor, I was informed there was a foreign object showing on his X-ray, and the doctor said he would do a scan. Well, the nurse felt it was glass that would wash out once he cleaned it. Devion was discharged without the scan and complained of headaches After two months and several doctor visits, my son was sent to a surgeon who operated two days later and removed a large piece of glass from next to his skull. He continues to have migraine headaches and has to take medication.
My feeling will never change until something is done about the health care system that is so broken. Too many lives have been lost, and it's all about money.
My family is my biggest support, and they are so proud of me. My mother has been
there since day one, and you all will see her again when we come to Washington, D.C., in September for the candlelight vigil
Since 'SiCKO' was released, I have been called ignorant by some people. It's been said to me that Mychelle was not denied treatment and that MLK Hospital
did the right thing by sending her to Kaiser and not treating her.
But I will keep fighting ‘till the end because I made a promise to my daughter that I would not give up until there was a change.
Labels: Dawnelle Keys, MLK Hospital, SiCKO
Wednesday, July 25, 2007 7:29 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 email@example.com
Labels: CNA, Code Pink, Donna Smith, HealthCare-Now, PDA, PNHP, ROOT, SiCKO
Sunday, July 22, 2007 7:13 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
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
Thursday, July 5, 2007 8:01 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
Monday, July 2, 2007 6:39 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
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
'SiCKO' Blog RSS