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Sick Inside Our Broken Health System with that Old Familiar Terror in My Gut

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Re-printed from Common Dreams with the permission of Donna Smith

From http://www.opednews.com/populum/uploaded/donna-smith--american-sicko-19660-20090204-1.jpg: Donna Smith
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I stepped up to the appointment check-in desk last Thursday as I prepared to have the CT scans needed to find out what the heck is going on with my body.  Many know I have been ill off and on since the day after Christmas, and I spent a week in the hospital after becoming so ill that dehydration was taking a toll on me. Doctors ordered lots of tests while I was in-patient and because the major symptoms have only been masked by meds and have not gone away, there is lingering concern about my cancer status, etc.  So I needed to be re-scanned to find out what is going on before we move forward with other care or treatment.

Drinking the barium in preparation for the test was not much fun when I've been taking anti-nausea medication off and on for a month.  And I knew they'd also be starting an IV for more contrast dye to see as much of my belly as possible.  I was nervous.

The woman at the check-in desk pulled up my record and first asked for my co-pay for the test -- $250, but then also asked if we wanted to make some progress on paying the now more than $2,000 I owe against my 2014 deductible and out-of-pocket costs.  I was instantly transported back to the terrified and angry places I have been so many times before when seeking health care has meant choosing between taking care of my health and hurting us financially.  My husband stared at me in disbelief and told the woman we would not be making payment on the $2,000.  We paid the $250.  As we walked back to the radiology area, I felt like leaving in shame.  I was ashamed of myself for needing care, ashamed of myself for not knowing how much the co-pay for the one test would be, and mostly ashamed of myself for not being wealthy enough to just take care of myself.

My shame and terror lasted right through the time when I went in for the scan.  Then I started to get angrier about the system that does this to me over and over again.  We need improved and expanded Medicare for all for life -- a single standard of high quality care without financial barrier -- so no one ever again is more terrified and ashamed of a co-pay than he or she may be of finding cancer or some other serious illness brewing inside.  I don't want to see my husband's angry face in a medical waiting room.  I want to see him supporting me, comforting me when necessary and maintaining his own calm in the face of medical issues.  This is just such an awful system.  And the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, as we all know, did not end these scenes from happening all over the country thousands of times every day.

I also spoke to a young man yesterday who is a friend of mine and who has just learned about how much his Food Stamps are going to be cut.  This young man struggles with some physical disabilities that make it impossible for him to work but he always maintains such a positive and caring attitude.  His Food Stamps had been a monthly benefit of $80.  Now he will get $15.  Can you imagine?  He also helps push for a change to our health care system as he has had to reapply and reproof his eligibility for Medicaid and his Medicare over and over again.

What is wrong with us that we have become such a selfish, greedy and boldly uninterested society.  So many people just truly do not care unless the trauma is unfolding in their own lives and costing them cash.  Have we really lost the ability to show our compassion for one another by making sure the social safety net is what it needs to be?  What do we not get about an injury to one is an injury to all?  The lessons I learned as a child about trying to do what is kind and just seem more needed now than ever -- and my parents were both pretty conservative Republicans in terms of their political affiliations.  Now we have both Democrats and Republicans signing off on policies that hurt people -- and policies that hurt average people also hurt those who think themselves invincible.

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We can change the system.  But we have to be prepared for some ugly fights that will sometimes be waged against people who claim to be our friends.  But what we cannot do is stand by and do nothing while people feel so much terror and shame that is not of their own making.  Do something.  Step up.  Stand for changing this system before you have to stand alone.  The dead and the broke numbers below are not made up of anonymous, unimportant souls.  They are you and me, our neighbors and friends--until the day when we've finally had enough.

February 9, 2014:  Today's count of the health care dead and broke for profit in the U.S.:

The 2014, to-date U.S. medical-financial-industrial-complex system dead: 4,920

The 2014, to- date U.S. health care system bankrupt: 79,120

** These figures are calculated based on the Harvard University studies on excess deaths in the U.S. due to lack of insurance coverage or the ability to pay for needed health care, and the Harvard University study that calculated the high percentage of personal bankruptcies attributable to medical crisis and debt in the U.S. 123 people die daily due to lack of coverage or cash to pay for care; 1,978 go bankrupt every day due to medical crisis and debt though the majority had insurance at the time their illness or injury occurred. This statistic is also based on the 1.2 million bankruptcies in the U.S. in 2012, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and calculating those medically-related bankruptcies from that number.

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Donna Smith appeared in Michael Moore's 2007 film, "SiCKO," and spent five years working for National Nurses United/California Nurses Association in Chicago and Washington, D.C., as their single-payer political organizer/educator.  She is now the executive director of Health Care for All Colorado and lives in Denver with her husband of 38 years, Larry


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Donna, thank you for this and all your articles o... by 911TRUTH on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 12:00:26 PM
".. Medical prices are controlled in various ... by Lance Brofman on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 12:35:32 PM
All fine, did the MRI get invented and commercial... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 6:08:21 AM
No, BFalcon; Magnetic Resonance Imaging was inven... by PCM on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 2:15:26 PM
I never deny the importance of the government spo... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:51:58 AM
The above was from Tesla Society. Also, from Wi... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:56:09 AM
Continued: "First human MRI body scan [  ... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:56:41 AM
The above may be too much but it is good to know.... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:59:19 AM
And I have to add,  " we have by far the hi... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 1:02:02 AM
Beautifully stated. Thank you! I'd add the agony o... by Theodora B Crawford on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 12:46:22 PM
The Report from Iron Mountain , the docume... by Peter Palms on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 1:02:47 PM
Yesterday, my husband called our pharmacy to requ... by E. T. SIMON on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 1:09:20 PM
I feel your pain Donna and I can relate to your hu... by Bob Gormley on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 1:21:52 PM
I am sorry to read about Donna' experiences which... by Zafar Hayat Khan on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 1:32:58 PM
You are aware that our elected officials receive a... by Tim Mullins on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 5:56:37 PM
On Dec. 16, 2013, Marc Caputo, political writer f... by E. T. SIMON on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 6:39:30 PM
What is wrong with us that we have become such a ... by PCM on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 4:35:58 PM
About France, you are aware of their unbelievable ... by Tim Mullins on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 6:02:19 PM
Yes, France has PROGRESSIVE taxation...far more so... by Jill Herendeen on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 8:35:21 PM
Well, I'm just a little guy, but when I lived in F... by PCM on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 10:47:50 PM
You should check survival after cancer diagnosis i... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 6:06:37 AM
For breast and prostate cancer, yes; for most othe... by PCM on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 11:05:05 AM
I believe that it is true for other cancers as we... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 11:27:34 AM
It is not just rob Kall who has become conciliato... by E. T. SIMON on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 6:09:59 PM
Hartmann is a shill and Miller is a little rich g... by Textynn N on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 9:40:03 PM
Obamacare has many good effects. Where it will po... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 6:04:55 AM
Dear Donna, I have the utmost respect for you ... by Gary Kutcher on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 5:27:16 PM
The US political system is too corrupt to fix anyt... by Tim Mullins on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 6:09:17 PM
BUT, if anything's going to be changed via electio... by Jill Herendeen on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 8:39:10 PM
Diet and lifestyle are great ways to mitigate or a... by Chris Robinett on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 12:22:38 PM
Pardon me if I think you sound a little selfish an... by Lee Beacham on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 5:51:22 PM
What about chronic health problems? How do you bud... by Bob Gormley on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 6:16:02 PM
Bob, I expect Americans to do what we've always d... by Lee Beacham on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 7:20:12 PM
You have obviously never been in such a situation... by Chris Robinett on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 12:18:47 PM
You use a worst case scenario that is rare. In tho... by Lee Beacham on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 3:56:34 PM
First, I need to point out your numbers are a gues... by Tim Mullins on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 5:51:51 PM
I never understood the "died for lack of insurance... by political activist on Sunday, Feb 16, 2014 at 9:53:23 PM
MANY PEOPLE, undocumented or native born citizens ... by Chris Robinett on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 12:44:30 PM
http://www.pnhp.org/news/2009/september/harvard_s... by Jill Herendeen on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 2:48:25 PM
Jill, from your link: " The Harvard-based resear... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 6:01:56 AM
"president Obama's program will really make a dif... by Jill Herendeen on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 10:28:39 AM
" Obamacare perpetuates & extends the definit... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 11:33:42 AM
...insuring the uninsured would help IF the INSURA... by Jill Herendeen on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 12:53:46 PM
I believe that the majority of the preventive car... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:39:49 AM
I believe that there is a lot of unfortunate exag... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 5:59:30 AM
The NHS began when I was in my teens, and i... by David Brittain on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 6:18:55 AM
OK, so why can't NHS keep going the way it was? ... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 5:52:57 AM
The NHS is currently under-funded, possibly becau... by Jill Herendeen on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 10:15:34 AM
Or is it because the funding is just not availabl... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:24:27 AM
A heartbreaking revealing article Donna; My prayer... by David Brittain on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 6:43:33 AM
Excellent article and my heartfelt sympathy for yo... by Glenn Kirk on Monday, Feb 17, 2014 at 11:04:48 AM
Well, we are all for: "We need improved and expa... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 5:50:03 AM
Yes, third-world countries have big problems with ... by Jill Herendeen on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 10:23:53 AM
Typical disinformationalist tactic: conflate a di... by PCM on Tuesday, Feb 18, 2014 at 12:46:30 PM
Of course, our system isn't perfect but that is e... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:19:30 AM