Tuesday, January 15, 2008 4:18 PM

SiCKOs in the Sanctuary

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.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007 5:25 PM

Nationwide Vigils Sept. 28 for Health Care Justice

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.

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JUNE 29th... EVERYWHERE.