Notes from the field: Why were we talking about health care again?

Dan Heck — Working America Regional Director

This morning, I sat down in my office and saw a letter from Sylvia, a member from Chillicothe. It almost moved me to tears, even though I’ve heard this story countless times. Here’s what she wrote to her Representative, Zack Space:

“I’m a cancer survivor and have been in the process of healing for 10 years. In the middle of the ordeal, my health insurance doubled and we were left with bills we either couldn’t pay or a premium we couldn’t pay. I am a nurse and believe me, I worked long hours to not have any insurance. We as Americans need health care!! I want you to support a public option. However, real reform means not taxing our health care benefits.”

This is a story we’ve seen in countless letters, and heard from countless members. It is extremely widespread. Middle class people who think they have insurance suddenly lose it, or find the rates become unaffordable, when they actually get sick. Any system that does that is broken, and needs to be fixed.

Health care reform isn’t about whether we think corporations or the government are worse. It isn’t about message points and 10 point plans and mountains of policy details. It is about Sylvia, because we’re all in Sylvia’s shoes. Even those of us fortunate enough to be in the middle class are one illness away from financial ruin. Our homes, our kid’s college … they’re all on the line because of a broken system that takes advantage of people when they’re sick, instead of protecting them.

Anyone who bothers to look at the health reform package knows that it will help protect everyone who works for a living. It helps keep special interests honest, and helps focus our hospitals on healing us, instead of just making money. An American Public Insurance option is a necessary part of that, because it will bargain for us and set the standard for others to follow. And if it doesn’t do that, people will choose not to use it.

But ultimately, this health care struggle is a whole lot bigger than any single bill, or any policy. We’re fighting to get the best possible bill for Sylvia, and all of us who are in her shoes.

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Children…what sweethearts!

by Erin Bogle—Missouri

I young boy was hanging out while I was canvassing houses in his neighborhood. When I arrived at his house he appeared with a bag of pennies. He felt Working America needed these pennies more than him. His mother couldn’t afford the 5 dollars and he insisted that we take it, so that we could “make schools better!”

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Failing system

by Chad Rein—Missouri

A member signed up with us because she was fed up with the health care system. She was fighting cancer and was on chemotherapy. Not only was she dealing with her cancer, but was fighting a failing health care system. She was only too happy to sign up with us. I was very happy to add her as a member and get her support. I told her that it was for people like her that we go out each day and fight to improve a system that is failing the people.

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Sorry, wrong address

by D. Anthony Gildon—Missouri

knocked on a woman’s door and she invited me in. We sat and talked as she signed up as a member because of her concern about health care. She had surgery and needed medications which cost $500.00.

She had Medicare to pay for it, but her pharmacy sent it to the wrong address and has to pay $150.00 to get a replacement prescription. By the time we talked she had been without her medications for two weeks and it will be another week before she was likely to get them.

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Empty houses for blocks

by Kyle Morehead—Missouri

Last Friday as I was canvassing in Independence, Missouri I came across two blocks that were essentially empty. It seemed that house after house was in foreclosure or just empty. When we did make contact with a resident the majority were unemployed or scared of losing their jobs. The economic situation is dire. What we do is more than going door to door to talk about health care. We are witness to the current reality of American life.

Our job is to remind the folks that there are people like us that want to help. And, that justice still means something to us. We must share the passion with the folks.

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Army man left bankrupt

by Jaclyn Scudiero—Missouri

A man that I was talking to used to be in the Army. He was very supportive of what we were doing. He told me that after he got out of the Army he ended up bankrupt because he was injured during his service and couldn’t find a job that payed enough.

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Dumped by her insurance

by Chris Bowman—Missouri

One day while canvassing, I talked to a woman who informed me that she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a few years ago. She continued to explain that shortly after her visit to the hospital, her insurance company upped her premium to just over $1,000 a month. Prior to this diagnosis she was paying around $200 a month.

After a few months of doctor visits she was released from her policy for reasons unknown to her. Her insurance company told her she had a pre-existing condition, which she was unaware of before her diagnosis. Now she lives without health care because she spent all of her money for care after her insurance released her, and she can’t afford any insurance now. She went on to say that the daily pain brought on by her condition is horrible and there is nothing she can do about it.

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Not a real retirement

by Rick Snodgrass—Missouri

A retired man and a semi-retired woman in their late 60′s having to pay over $700 per month on insurance. With SSI and retirement pay she had to continue work as a book keeper to make ends meet.

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Small towns need good jobs

by Sergio D. Acosta—Missouri

I met with a young man that was passionate about ending tax credits to big corporations that send American “blue collar” jobs out of the country.

It was awesome to talk with someone that understood the struggle and supported our cause.

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Military service brings issues to the frontline

by Tommy Todd—Missouri

The other night, I met a Marine who had just returned from a two year tour in Iraq. When I started to talk to him about the issues, he stopped me and said that he was a Republican. What he said next was quite a shock: This election, he was going to vote for whichever Democratic candidate gets the nomination.

The people he met through military service and the things he saw while he was deployed had all culminated in him realizing what is really important: To take care of our own. Making sure that health care is affordable, that we are keeping good jobs here in America, and that we’re providing a first class education for every child.

It’s amazing how the experiences people go through can change their outlooks on life.

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