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Donna Smith
Nurses Protest
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May 22, 2009

Donna Smith and her colleagues have been taking their quest for health care reform to Congress — and to the streets. Donna Smith is best known for her major role in Michael Moore's 2007 movie, SiCKO. Moore documented her return to Denver in 2006 when she and her husband Larry were forced to move into their daughter's basement. Though they were fully insured, the Smiths lost everything they had following major illnesses and surgeries. Today, Donna Smith works as a community organizer and legislative advocate for the California Nurses Association, whose 85,000 members across the country were early champions of a single-payer program.

I tell people look back in your own lives and think where a nurse touched you somehow. Think how that nurse advocated for you as a patient. So many of those critical times in my life, they were the only people who were there with me to help me. Now we can help them speak the voice that needs to be heard. And American citizens, listen. Your nurses are telling you. They would not sell you down the river on this issue of health care reform. So not only do I tell nurses join us. But I tell American citizens, 'listen more to your nurses.'

>View a profile of The California Nurses Association from BILL MOYERS JOURNAL

Donna Smith, and Bill Moyers guests Dr. Sidney Wolfe and Dr. David Himmelstein, know that fighting for meaningful health care reform on Capitol Hill will be a difficult battle. The health care and pharmaceutical industries remain among the top contributors to political campaigns on both sides of the aisle. Says Smith, "If we start this debate about money, it'll be about money. If we started it about health care, it would be about health care. And this started about money in the beginning. It's stayed about money. It is about money and scarcely anyone is talking about what kind of health care do the American people deserve [...] They've already made a choice, I think, to stay with the moneyed interest, the people who fund the campaigns, the people who fuel the government system as we know it now. "

>Following the Money: Online tools for campaign contributions.

Donna Smith
Photo by Robin HollandDonna Smith is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Colorado College with a degree in history. Her journalism career includes work as a stringer for NEWSWEEK magazine. She has been honored by the Associated Press Managing Editors with 15 regional awards from 2004-2006 and by the Inland Press Association's top honor in 2006 for community-based journalism. Since 2007, she has co-chaired the Progressive Democrats of America's national "Healthcare Not Warfare" campaign, and she has so far spoken in 41 states and the District of Columbia about single-payer healthcare reform.

Donna continues an active writing and speaking career, and now blogs and writes op-ed pieces about the health care crisis. She also is the founder of American Patients United, a non-profit group educating citizens about health care reform on the national level. She also works as a national single-payer health care advocate and community organizer for the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. Donna and Larry now live in Washington, DC, and they have six children and 14 grandchildren.

Published May 22, 2009.

Guest photos by Robin Holland

Related Media:
Medical practitionersCalifornia Nurses Association
The California Nurses Association advocates a single payer national health insurance system. (May 5, 2008)

Melody Petersen, photo by Robin Holland Melody Petersen
Melody Petersen talks with Bill Moyers about her new book OUR DAILY MEDS, and how drug companies market medication. (May 16, 2008)

Rachel CarsonFRONTLINE: "Sick Around the World"
FRONTLINE travels to five other wealthy capitalist democracies — Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, and Switzerland — to find out how they provide health care to all of their citizens far a fraction of the cost of the U.S. system.

References and Reading:
Middle Class Healthcare Reform? Bend Over, Posted by Donna Smith, May 17, 2009

The California Nurses Association
The California Nurses Association and its national arm, the National Nurses Organizing Committee, is one the fastest growing health care organizations in the United States, with 80,000 members in 50 states. They represent nurses in collective bargaining agreements as well as advocate for health care policy reforms such as a federal single payer system for the United States and requiring minimum RN-to-patient ratios.

Hearing on Working Families in Financial Crisis: Medical Debt and Bankruptcy,
Listen to Donna Smith's 07/17/2007 testimony in front of the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Guaranteed healthcare
The California Nurses Association Web site associated with the CheneyCare campaign collects stories of patients denied care by health insurance companies.

Nataline Sarkisyan
More information on the 17-year-old who died awaiting a liver transplant initially denied by the health insurance corporation CIGNA.

Health Care for All
NPR's collection of patient stories and investigative reports on American health care.

Side-by-side comparison the major health care reform proposals.
Assembled by The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Also This Week:

Washington's abuzz about health care, but why isn't a single-payer plan an option on the table? Public Citizen's Dr. Sidney Wolfe and Physicians for a National Health Program's Dr. David Himmelstein on the political and logistical feasibility of health care reform.

Bill Moyers speaks with advocate Donna Smith about how our broken system is hurting ordinary Americans.

Explore the JOURNAL's veterans' issues, get resources for vets and their families and find out how to contribute an oral history of a veteran to the National Veteran's History Project.

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