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The Human Toll of America's Health Disaster

This week, the JOURNAL presented CRITICAL CONDITION, a heart-rending documentary that follows several working families facing a terrible ordeal – getting treatment for ailing loved ones without the aid of health insurance.

Several people featured in the film speculated that access to public health insurance might have helped them afford basic preventative treatment long before they needed financially devastating emergency care.

With an estimated 47 million Americans without health insurance, President Obama and others have argued that the federal government should set up a national public health insurance plan to help more families avoid the difficulties captured in CRITICAL CONDITION. Opponents believe a public plan would be a fiscal disaster that would ration treatment and undermine quality of care.

What do you think?

  • Have you or loved ones faced major illness without health insurance? Please share your stories.

  • Do you believe current proposals for health reform will improve America’s health system?

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    I have a Mac air. Everybody say that there are no viruses for apple and I was wondering if it makes sense to buy firewall software anyway? Are the Nortons of the world trying to build up fear?

    I was at a health insurance reform vigil at my Senator’s office when some poor young political campaign staffer made a mistake. He asked me how I was doing.

    I think that if the government wants to step into healthcare, they should govern the price of it, not add to the burden of insurance quoting. They can fine gas companies for price gouging, why not doctors and hospitals. When you need healthcare services, it shouldn't be a choice between losing your home or your health. I thought people became doctors to help others. If so, they need to change their policies and prices on their own. How do they sleep at night, knowing they could help so many, but won't. Do they think that they will lose money if they lower the costs? Wouldn't more people get the care they need if it was affordable, thus making the doctors and hospitals just as much money?

    Let’s cut to the chase about health care. For starters, except for the votes politicians want to garner, it's not really about the twenty to fifty million uninsured, it's all about the money and the plight of the other 250 million or more Americans. So let's explore this and a few other issues.

    Medicare and ordinary working American's with health care coverage are going broke because of the Boomer demographics and the relentless rising cost of care. Maybe we are not yet health care insolvent but we will be very soon. Both the number of Medicare plan participants and health care costs for everyone are increasing rapidly.

    The cost of private company sponsored health care is in worse shape than Medicare. Per capita costs in these plans are increasing at an even higher rate than Medicare costs and more companies are opting out, leaving individuals to fend for themselves.

    Inadequate health care and unsustainable costs are making America less competitive with the rest of the world. As a result we continue to loose good paying jobs to other countries. Inadequate coverage causes many workers to become less productive or even incapacitated. As a result, we not only suffer productivity loss but our society forfeits the hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in their education. This is a triple whammy - the loss of jobs, productivity and society's investment in the individual.

    We have some of the poorest health and life expectancy outcomes of any industrialized nation yet we pay more than double that of what the world's best rated countries pay for health care. This is why there has been a dramatic rise in uninsured individuals taking low cost Medical "vacations" to foreign countries and where many times those with health insurance have their entire "vacation" paid by their insurer. Are we now going to export our sick as well as our jobs?

    Company sponsored health care plans are paid for by their workers but the cost usually doesn’t come directly out of their paychecks. Employees do pay the all of the cost, they just never see the total cost. Workers with company sponsored health care plans pay no income tax for their health care benefit. Ultimately, the federal income tax system redistributes this amount of "lost" tax revenue between these insured workers and all other taxpayers. There is no fee lunch.

    Medicare is a semi-public plan and nobody ever gets between you and your doctor. Not only is this relationship beneficial for health care it actually reduces the cost. With private plans your provider’s contract and your plan’s health care administrator, not a medical professional, will at some point, get between you and your doctor. This usually occurs when both your medical need and the projected cost is the greatest. This interference will occur by defining your health care plan’s payment limitations, what doctors you can and cannot use and how often you may receive treatment. This is also known as rationing and it is prevalent today in nearly all plans.

    Medicare recipients subsidize the for-profit private health care providers when they purchase optional insurance coverage for the 20% of cost that Medicare does not provide. Wouldn't it be more beneficial for the insured to pay this directly to Medicare? Medicare does not turn down applicants because either the applicant or their relatives had cancer, COPD or any other disease. This is costly health care coverage but who else will provide it? Financial risk - this is one of many reasons why Medicare and not private insurers provide primary coverage for seniors.

    Only a few for-profit health insurers dominate the industry and therefore drive up cost. Even fewer of these companies compete with each other within any given area. For profit health plans can and will refuse to provide individuals coverage based upon either their or their families medical history. If they must accept high risk patients they dramatically increase the applicant’s premium beyond their ability to pay and then require extended probationary time periods before any coverage can begin. All this is clearly good for profits but not for individuals needing coverage.

    Today many Americans with health care coverage can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And yes, it really is a train. Private plans are great for many of those with coverage, at least until they actually need to use coverage that goes beyond simple treatments like a common cold. As a result, we now have expensive but inadequate coverage for the majority of all healthy Americans and limited or no coverage for those not so fortunate. If all health care costs cannot be contained soon, then with few exceptions, everyone will fall into the latter two categories. It's time to derail this out of control train and find a better mode of transportation. Do it quickly before no one survives this health care train wreck.

    Richard Rychtarik

    Regardless of the personal choices these people made or any one makes, there is no reason to have to go with out health care.

    wip states, "Health care is a right!!!!! Not a privilege like having an drivers license!!!!!"
    It is "the privileges" that cost money! "Rights and privileges" go hand in hand.
    It is a fact, a person can buy a house, but he does not have a privilege to live in it
    until he pays the taxes to the high paid useless, autocrats, as well as mortgage, water,
    gas, electric, sewer etc. People would rather pay to have a privilege to health care than to
    pay for a "dysfunctional government" - high paid corrupt "welfare bureaucrats!"

    The issue of healthcare has hit so close to home for me that I just have to get a few thing off my chest...

    1) What happened to the American I use to know and love?! When I was growing up, Americans alway took care of their neighbors and they never left anyone behind. Why is this no longer a part of the American fabric? Why have we allowed competition to diminished our ability to care for one another?

    2) Many people who think they have excellent health care coverage may find that their coverage is not as good as they think. My husband thought he had excellent healthcare coverage until he was diagnosed with a chronic illness, at which time he realized that the insurance company had all kinds of ridiculous provision for those who are ill. Unless you've really put your healthcare coverage to the test, you really don't know what you have.

    3) Why must everything be for profit in this country? As a Christian I've watched as the religion I love so dearly has been taken over by those who want to repackage the message of Jesus Christ so they can sell it to the masses for a profit. And now we are profiting from peoples health (or should I say lack thereof).

    4) We already pay for the uninsured. I have a cousin whose been battling drug addiction his entire life and he's been in and out of emergency rooms for years. Recently he ended up spending 3 months in the county hospital to the tune of nearly $250,000- a tab that the American tax payers will be picking up by the way. Ironically, he received better care than those who are insured, as the insurance companies probably would have kicked him out of the hospital within the first couple of weeks of his rehabilitation.

    5) For those who think it will never happen to them and to those who like to place blame, let me just say that a friend of mine who is young and healthy was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and none of us saw it coming! The truth is, even those who are healthy are affected by illness, when we find ourselves watching the ones we love suffer in pain. Now we can continue to blame others for their misfortunes by implying that some people deserve their illnesses, or we can face the reality that no one escapes illness, no one escapes getting old, and no one escapes death. Once we face this reality we can get back to the business of caring for one another. The only business I see worth facilitating in this country.

    When I watched Critical Condition I realized that I’m one of the lucky ones, I have health insurance, not as good as it should be, but at least I have it. What concerns me though, are all those people that can’t get insurance either way, because they are too poor and can’t afford it or have some pre-existing ailment. I’ve been told by people from all walks of life, but especially by those that call themselves religious, that it is wrong for me to care about my neighbor’s lack of healthcare. It is wrong for me to pay a little bit more taxes so everyone can get the healthcare they need, it is wrong for me to worry about if my neighbor will be able to afford her insulin to prevent her from dieing? Well, if it is wrong for me to give up a little more money in the way of taxes to help my neighbors get the healthcare they need then I'll gladly go to hell.

    Ann Stanton,
    Since the 911 attack there has been a paradigm shift in many people's moral principles. They became acutely aware of their vulnerability. The Bush Administration used this acute insecurity to undermine the value of human life and promote their obscene objectives.
    Through their manipulation, they undermined the stability of our social system. The process of reestablishing our stability is horrendous and will take major innovative change in the way we do business.
    First we must regain our sense of moral obligation and the will to do what is necessary to fix our severely damaged social system.
    We know what needs to be done and have to clear all obstacles that prevent the necessary change. The future of our nation depends on major reconstruction.
    Liberty, freedom, justice and equity are the product of quality people who do what is necessary to set things right.
    We depend on our economics to provide the funds for necessary change. Economics must be a means to support human life not enslave people.

    My heart went out to the people whose loved ones died for lack of health insurance. I know what they are going through because my brother died 3/7/09 after a massive heart attack while driving home from work. He had heart problems for years and while having insurance, was taken care of. Once he lost his insurance and then his job, he could not get medical care he needed. It's not easy these days to find a job with health insurance either. He was in the hospital after collapsing at work in Dec 2007 but without health insurance, they discharged him after one day with continuing heart problems. They advised him to get follow-up care once he got health insurance. The hospital did not do a thorough cardiac workup and the cardiologist told him his defibrillator battery was very low with the life of a few months. I guess he lived every day after that not knowing if it would be his last. We tried everything possible to try and get him insurance but with no success. He died 15 months after being discharged from the hospital and our family is still devastated that greed is more important in this country than human life. And so many people out there don't feel that letting a person die for lack of health insurance is wrong. What has happened in this country that human life is no longer valued?

    It is easy for some to judge the people portrayed in this documentary film. The difficulty comes in defining what criteria to judge! Do we deny health coverage to people who are fat? To people who eat white sugar? To people who use artificial sweeteners? To people who have more than one child? To people who have children after age 50? To people who have abortions? To people who smoke? To people who over-exercise? To people who use steroids? To people who have a familial history of heart disease or diabetes? To those who drink alcohol? To children with birth defects or low IQ? To those who eat beef? And what about those people who drink black tea but not green tea? Should we cover them? I mean, c'mon, where does it stop? Who draws the line?
    In a civilized society health care is an expected social service and should be provided to ALL people. Health education is also needed. There will always be a certain percentage of the population who abuse their health or make poor decisions, but they still deserve and are entitled to medical care. Perhaps the government should offer elective demise? I am sure the lines would be very long.

    There are larger issues beyond health care that threaten all of Barack Obama's efforts at passing legislative reform bills in this country. They include the following:

    1) Because of the legal concept of corporate personhood - established by the courts after the civil war - corporations have the same constitutional rights as individual human beings. Corporate personhood goes against the original intent of the founding fathers when the constitution was framed. The net effect is that city, state, and national legislation favors corporate interest over the welfare of public infrastructure, ordinary people and the environment. Corporate law also requires reform so that corporations operate more democratically, distribute income more equitably, and are responsible to the needs of their employees and the community that they operate in. Intellectual property law also needs radical overhall with respect to corporate vs public interest.

    2) Republicans have failed to realize that although government failure can and does occur, market failure can and does occur also. Our current privatized health care crises is an example of market failure. We need to find a way to make government and markets work together. We also need to redefine what best belongs in the public sphere and what best belongs in the private domain.

    3) Ever since Lee Atwater, the Republicans have relied heavily on hate, fear, bigotry, lies, distortion, misinformation, and deception to influence elections and public policy. The culture wars are quickly turning into a real war. The Republicans and the conservative movement have become a greater threat to the security of America than any world terrorist organization.

    The key to reducing health care costs starts with de-emphasizing conventional medicine in the United States. Changes to American public health policy should include:

    1) Phase out our current industrial system of food supply. That means eliminating industrial monoculture, eliminating genetically modified crops, and eliminating crops grown with herbicides, pesticides and artificial fertilizers. It also means phasing out Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO’s) and all industrial food chemicals (particularly high fructose corn syrup) produced from corn and soybeans. A nation can be no healthier than the health and wholesomeness of its food supply.

    2) Phase in local, sustainable, organic agriculture, free from herbicides, pesticides, artificial fertilizers, and genetically modified seeds.

    3) All meat and dairy products should come from free range fed animals, not animals fed from industrial corn/soybeans living in unsanitary, overcrowded conditions and fed growth hormones and antibiotics.

    4) America must reduce its intake of meat and dairy products, and low fiber, processed foods. A more vegetarian, high fiber lifestyle should be promoted. Increased consumption of raw onion, raw garlic, and seasoning spices and herbs will be necessary to make this transition possible.

    5) FDA jurisdiction should be limited strictly to synthetic drugs. The FDA should not be allowed to regulate food products, natural substances such as vitamins, minerals,
    herbs, and auxiliary nutrients, and it should not regulate medical care. Under current FDA rulings, “only a drug can be used to cure, treat, or prevent a disease”. This type of ruling favors the interests of the pharmaceutical industry over the health of people.

    6) Encourage non-drug, non-surgery alternative health therapies for the chronic, degenerative disorders such as cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. Under current FDA rulings only chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation are approved treatments for cancer. Cancer patients must travel outside of the United States to receive legal, alternative treatments.

    7) Conventional medicine practice should be restricted to the following situations: Accidents, trauma injuries, broken bones, sudden internal organ or blood vessel problems, or any immediate life threatening condition requiring emergency treatment. Our excessive reliance on conventional medicine must be phased out.

    8) Alternative, drug and surgery free medicine should become mainstream for promoting health and wellness. This includes therapy with nutrition, vitamin and mineral supplements, auxiliary nutrients, natural herbs, homeopathy, electric and electromagnetic therapy, chiropractic therapy, or religious healing methods.

    I am a supporter of the single payer (not for profit) system.
    However I had a hard time feeling sorry for the people in this story. Especially the guy with the back problems. He has limited resources and medical problems, but he cant seem to stop having more kids. Maybe he should visit a free clinic and get a vasectomy...

    This program and most of these comments were just heartbreaking. I'm from the Netherlands and just realize how truely blessed I am with one the best healthcare systems in the world.

    I read some extremely judgmental comments on this board about the people featured in this item. Do you people know how much time and money it costs to live healthy lifestyles? Growing your own food, exercise, and/or shopping around for healthy food and lifestyle choices is truly a luxury when people have to juggle between 2, 3 or more jobs and raising a family. Noticing these people were obviously living on low income also forces them to buy food which happens to be very unhealthy and very addictive, but most importantly, also very very cheap. Besides that, the tobacco industry has made it very hard to kick smoking habits. They purposely include additives to tobacco to make smoking more addictive.

    These are areas were healthinsurance companies actually should be involved. My insurance for instance (partly) pays for subscriptions to the gym and sportsclubs. It pays for people seeking to quit their smoking habits. In my opinion that would be the correct way for healthinsurance companies to make profits. Not by collecting as much premiums as possible when people are still healthy, but close the purse when people get sick and rescind your policy or drop you entirely. It's absolutely shameful

    What was sadder than the death of the two people portrayed in the film was the care they received. When does the "possible" cure become worse than the disease. They both died horrible deaths under the care of doctors. I'd sooner take my chances alone than with their "care".
    Perhaps education, cleaning up the food industry to get rid of those poisons could be a place to start.

    The US must stop profiting from the misery of mankind. From Health care to the penal system and the military industrial complex, the US has taken a wrong turn. Voices of the media and public need to take this chance to abolish the trade in human suffering.

    Actually I was commenting on Sandra's observation that Mr. Moyers should have chosen slim people with 2 children or less.

    I used to think regulating insurance companies was the answer. I don't any more. I suspect they've already drawn up the loopholes to present to Congress and put them away for safekeeping. They feel, with good reason, that they own the country. No, the only sane thing to do at this point is to expand medicare into single payer but that's not going to happen under Obama and Rahm. They've sold us out.

    To Whom May Be Concerned

    There, but for the grace of God, go I. ...Words to remember.

    Posted by: jan

    It will take a whole lot more than empathy to fix the health care problem.
    It starts with elimination of corruption of our government by lobbyists.
    Then it is necessary to regulate Health Insurance Companies to assure that they meet the necessary medical cost of their policy holders.
    Then there is the raising of the minimum wage to the cost of living which includes health care.
    Prices will have to be adjusted to cover the cost of providing goods and services. The economy must be adjusted to assure that there are sufficient funds to support the exchange of goods and services, pay for efficient government systems that meet people's needs and provide for the protection of the environment.
    Anything short of this is morally wrong and counter- productive.
    Failure follows fear and what we have to fear most is apathy.

    As I wrote to Representative Rush Holt (NJ), the health care reform needs to take place within the banking industry (think health insurance companies). There has been a concerted effort by the banking industry to garner a large slice (if not the whole enchilada) of the health care industry pie. HMOs were initially thought to be a solution to escalating medical costs and a way to reduce payments and enable more people to be covered. We all know how that concept worked out! The only true and reliable outcomes have been the increased profits of the insurance companies (think banking industry) and generous compensation for their CEOs (ie, $15.3 million to a CEO of Blue Cross/Blue Shield in 2007).If the health care industry is a 'for profit' business model, please don't ignore the intent of the insurance companies.
    This Obama-driven health care reform bill is rubbish. It is yet another means of padding the pockets of the private insurance companies. They run the Federal health care plans, in case you hadn't noticed.
    The banking industry has dictated to physicians exactly how to practice medicine while raising their malpractice insurance rates through the roof. Now primary care doctors can barely make ends meet, as they have been forced to capitate care.
    The next horizon is the pharmaceutical industry. The banking boys want to reap those profits and add them to their coffers. Greed is the real enemy, not only to the quality and availability of medical care, but to the future of our entire country.
    Write to your representatives and ask they develop a plan to reform insurance companies (think banking industry).

    Does buying Insurance Support Corporate Murder?

    When an insurance company denies a person a life saving procedure and the person dies from that denial of service, that’s corporate murder. And because there’s an obvious profit motive, it’s sheer murder for profit. What we have to ask ourselves is this; “When we buy health insurance are we not endorsing and financing corporate murder?
    What can we do? It’s protectionism straight out of any crime lord tale. We’re paying the thugs to protect us from said thugs. It’s extortion. In the meantime, the blood has made its way to all of our hands. We have to see how we’re personally participating and stop now.
    This is a personal moral question we’re all facing together. And I believe that the worldwide healthcare crisis is our dove in the mineshaft of an even deeper moral crisis. This crisis is far more fundamental than private vs. public healthcare. This is a crisis of humanity, our own humanity and it’s as old as poverty and as widespread as homelessness.
    To understand and address the root cause of our moral crisis, we have to wrap our mind around the fact that, we are one. We human people are the human physical presence on this planet. One Human physical presence, one Human physical being. In light of this fact we can see that, if one human is starving then, we are all subject to starvation. If one human person is homeless, then we are all under threat of homelessness.
    Right now, one billion people, a full sixth of the Human physical being, is starving everyday. And even in the wealthiest nation in the world, the majority of us live under the constant threat of imminent homelessness. Even if you keep all the rules and pay off your mortgage and grow your nest egg, you are one illness away from losing everything and being homeless the rest of your life. Whether we U.S. citizens are conscious of that constant threat or not, it’s there, weighing on our collective mind and exerting stress.
    These ARE the stresses creating disease and ill health in the Human-we, the constant stress of starvation and homelessness has brought us to the brink with cancer, heart disease and dysentery killing off many individual humans. The Human physical presence is imbalanced due to neglect and we are living a warped version of our actual being. We’re living and experiencing the imbalanced expressions of humanity.
    Our great moral challenge is therefore, to end starvation and homelessness. Which, is precisely why I am calling for the 250BOYCOTT. THE 250BOYCOTT IS A WORLDWIDE BOYCOTT OF HOME RENTS AND MORTGAGES. To join the 250BOYCOTT you simply make 250BOYCOTT signs and put them in your windows or on your doors or paint it on the side of your car, just so people can see it easily. Your 250BOYCOTT sign says that you agree that ALL HUMANS NEED FOOD EVERYDAY, WITHOUT EXCEPTION AND THAT ALL HUMANS NEED A HOME, WITHOUT EXCEPTION. Your 250BOYCOTT sign is your personal vote for a new economic system based on those two priorities.
    For full details of the 250BOYCOTT watch the “Max Trinity Trickle Up Global Economics” Series on Youtube. When you put the sign in your window, you’ve joined this peaceful revolution. Check it out and spread it around. Go to the professormaxtrinity channel on youtube or use the link below;

    Anchor Babies: Born In The USA
    Written by Frosty Wooldridge
    Monday, 17 August 2009 18:26

    The Abuse of the Fourteenth Amendment-PART I

    U.S. House member Nathan Deal introduced a new bill H.R. 1868 to stop 400,000 babies birthed annually by unlawful migrants to gain instant citizenship. Known as "Jackpot Babies or Anchor Babies", these children cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars annually in medical as well as educational costs K-12. This three part series will give American citizens a mouthful of ashes as to what it costs them and what those anchor babies do to their medical, educational and prison systems.

    Helping me with this series, Registered Nurse Stephany Gabbard, long term hospital employee saw this phenomenon up close and personal.

    "My commute to work exceeds fifty miles but it gives me time to reflect," Gabbard said. "It is 1987 and I am an obstetrical nurse working in the crowded San Fernando Valley of California. Tonight I drive to my job in "Labor and Delivery," knowing the scenario before I arrive. Eight other nurses will battle through the night in this very busy obstetrical unit. Our patients are 99 percent pregnant illegal alien women who have broken United States immigration law to birth an American citizen child.

    "This will be their families' entry ticket into the United States. For them, no pesky visa applications and no waiting in line for several years like so many millions that enter this country through the front door. Pregnant Third World women have discovered that the only thing they have to do is cross the U.S.--Mexico border. The Fourteenth Amendment is their ticket.

    "It is now seventeen years later and things have worsened. The babies I helped deliver are older teenagers. When they turn 21, they will be eligible to bring their family members from Mexico, Central America and South America, i.e., chain migration on an ever-accelerating spinning wheel. Whole industries have now developed around abusing the Fourteenth Amendment. Pregnant Korean tourists come to the U.S. on travel visas to have their "anchor" babies. Coyotes dealing in human traffic are paid $1,500.00 to $25,000.00 per person to shuttle pregnant illegal aliens across our southern border. Our politicians and elites wink at this blatant law breaking and do nothing. The colonization of our country continues with the cooperation of our government. That means your senator and representative aid this illegal baby invasion. None dare call it treason. Most Americans mistakenly trust their politicians to do the right thing. Congressional members from every state betray that trust daily."

    The Fourteenth Amendment: It's a simple document, a constitutional amendment drafted after the Civil War to assure that newly emancipated black slaves would never be denied citizenship by the States. The drafters had no idea that years later it would be used to make a mockery of our immigration laws. Alan Wall, an American journalist living in Mexico states, "An illegal alien can cross the border, have a baby five minutes later, and that baby is automatically declared a citizen of the USA automatically."

    The illegal aliens don't have to go through any legal doors. They are exempt from that. They are, in fact, rewarded for disobeying U.S. laws by having their children granted automatic citizenship. In addition, the happy family is entitled to welfare benefits. And, illegal alien parents who have children born in the U.S. are seldom deported. That's why their children are called "anchor babies" - they anchor their families securely in the USA.

    It doesn't have to be this way. Most European countries have done away with birthright citizenship because they experienced the same abuses we are seeing. The Irish Supreme Court recently ruled that immigrant parents could be deported even if they have an Irish child. "It was becoming common for 'single pregnant woman' to come to Ireland from countries outside the 15-nation EU, most frequently from Nigeria, to claim political asylum," states Shawn Pogatchnik, AP writer. Ireland saw a wave of immigration abuse and promptly put a stop to it. Recently, the Irish voted to end birthright citizenship. Britain and Australia both changed their citizenship laws in the 1980's for the same reasons. If you are born in Switzerland you will not automatically become a Swiss citizen. Why should Americans allow our country to be invaded by people who do not honor allegiance to our laws?

    Allegiance is the key word. Senator Jacob Howard, co-author of the citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment, stated in 1866, "Every Person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States. This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons."

    The Fourteenth Amendment states,"(A) Persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States."

    However a proviso limits foreigners who have babies in America. It couldn't be clearer, children of foreigners, aliens or diplomats, who are subject to the jurisdiction of their home country, are ineligible for citizenship. At the time the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified we didn't have immigration laws. One hundred and thirty eight years later we are paying for the misinterpretation of it.

    Congress has the power to step in and correct this wrong, but don't hold your breath. There have been several bills dealing with this issue and most have died in committee. Except for a few brave individuals like former House member Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Rep. Goode of Virginia, there isn't enough chutzpah on Capitol Hill to fill a thimble. Where are the Thomas Jefferson's and Ben Franklin's when we need them?

    An important case, Hamdi vs Rumsfeld was recently heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Yaser Hamdi was captured during the Afghanistan war fighting for the Taliban. It was later learned that he had been born in Louisiana to Saudi nationals when his father was employed as a chemical engineer on a work visa. The family subsequently moved back to Saudi Arabia where Hamdi was raised.

    Hamdi sued the U.S. government for holding him in a Navy stockade for two years. He demanded full rights of U.S. citizenship since by accident he happened to be born here. The U.S. government wanted Hamdi charged as a non-combatant and denied due process. The U.S. government didn't raise this issue because he wanted to end birthright citizenship but other groups saw the possibility to finally challenge this fatal flaw in our immigration law that is wrecking havoc on our country.

    One such group, Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement, submitted a 'friend of the court' or Amicus brief. They asked the Supreme Court to address the issue of whether Hamdi should be considered an American citizen at all, since at the time of his birth his parents were foreign nationals with no fealty to this nation.

    The decision came down several years ago and just like the rest of the elite establishment in this country the U.S. Supreme Court ignored the issue of birthright citizenship except for a brief statement by Justices Scalia and Stevens stating Hamdi was a "presumed American citizen."

    So we live to fight another day. In the meantime the invasion/colonization of our country marches on.

    Uninsured in the United States

    As reported by the US Department of Health and Human Services:
    For the year 2007 the number of uninsured in the United Stated was 47.4 million (15.8% X 300 million). An increase of 2.2 million from the previous year.

    It would seem the 45 million uninsured in the United States is understated. The number today is closer to 50 million (more than the population of Canada)

    The day-to-day plight of the uninsured in the United States is:

    For the Uninsured: No money = No doctor = no medicine = rot, suffer, die.

    For the ER stabilized Uninsured:
    No money = No doctor = no medicine = rot, suffer, die.

    For the Medically Bankrupt:
    No money = No doctor = no medicine = rot, suffer, die.

    Baptist Minister Martin Luther King took up the calling to speak for a people that were rotting, suffering, and dieing. He did it in defiance of government, law, governors, politicians, and all those that would continue segregation. He did not do it for the power, riches, attention of the rich and powerful, or notoriety. He did it because millions of rotting, suffering, and dieing persecuted Americans had no one to speak for them.

    Thank you Bill Moyers for speaking for the 50 million Americans that “are” rotting, suffering, and dieing.

    There, but for the grace of God, go I. ...Words to remember.

    Although I can empathize greatly with people in this country who go without health insurance, I wonder about the selection of candidates for the "Critical Condition" documentary. One of the couples had an obvious problem with weight and yet I didn't hear one doctor tell the male patient that he needed to lose weight. At a minimum, this may have helped to control his diabetes, among other problems I'm sure he was having.
    The other story I had difficulty with was the gentleman who needed back surgery. He couldn't afford health insurance and yet his wife was having another child at the end of the story.
    While I believe that we need universal coverage in this country, there must be some personal accountability for one's health and finances.
    As such, I question the stories he used as I'm sure he could've found countless other, more sympathetic stories to illustrate his point.

    Single payer with the maximum pool of all of us is such an obvious correction to the delivery of health care in this country that any debate is unreal. It is what it is.

    I grew up under such a system, and the freedom that gave to me and my family as individuals is a freedom I refuse to give up, even if it means that in this country I will go to my grave sooner rather than later. I really mean this. Consider me a fool to take these risks, but life is a risk and I would long be on the streets panhandling (or dead by now) had I personally chosen the fear track. Assuredly I have been fortunate and had a very good life compared to citizens of the world at large - I consider my choice was morally sustaining. Health, basic care, should not be a marketplace commodity. Throw the moneychangers out of the temple!

    I wouldn't wish the condition of Carlos Benitez on anyone. However, I do question why, when he cannot afford health insurance, he and his wife are having another child. Overpopulation is a very real factor in the health care crisis.

    As someone who grew up under the UK NHS, and who has great insurance in the U.S., I am ashamed of the for profit insurance business in this country.

    Most importantly the lack of moral concern, from a so called religious society, for their fellow citizens is amazing.

    I wonder if the fact that the U.S. has the highest concentration of wealth of any industrialized nation, the only industrailized nation not to guarantee vacation for its citizens, and the only industrialized nation not to have universal healthcare are linked?

    what a horrible catch 22. People pay for health insurance when they are working. They when they get sick and are unable to work the health insurance doesn't help them. I am fortunate to live in Canada. I may get ill but I won't go into bankruptcy for it. I guess in terms of health care in US, some of the citizens are throw-away people. Very sad. karen

    Thanks to the Journal and Bill Moyers for the presentation of the excellent documentary.

    First, we cannot and should not attempt to legislate how people live their lives: how they eat, whether they smoke or drink. Likewise, we cannot decide where people live. Many live in environments that are polluted or contain carcinogens over which they have no control.

    The couple who were obviously overweight: clearly, the gentleman who was the subject had a liver disorder and diabetes that affected his weight. If you will notice, his face was really quite thin.

    To presume that the lady with ovarian cancer had contracted this as a result of smoking is both a reach and unsubstantiated.

    There is nothing wrong with making people responsible for themselves. However, to allow folks to die because they might have made better choices is draconian.

    Perhaps no one else has noticed but each of the cases profiled became worse and more expensive to treat because of neglect. Since the patients could not obtain timely and preventive treatment, the disease became more devastating and more expensive to treat, not to mention years of suffering for the patient and family.

    Please click on and read about the medical doctor who had everything and now has nothing including health insurance. Tort reform will not heal his debilitating health condition. He did not elect to have Huntington's disease. He is not alone with his heart wrenching dilemma.

    After Bill Moyer's Friday night's program I wept for the inhumanity of our country and wrote a poem with a simple title, Bill Moyer's Journal, August 21, 2009. You may read it on my blog, My words developed a new illness: dreaded dollar-less disease.

    Last night I joined some writers and poets celebrating the words of a colleague. To my astonishment I learned one of us, a creative, active good woman in her mid forties, fell, severely bruised her right leg and thinks there may be broken bones. Did I mention she lost her job six months ago and has no health care insurance and of course no health care. Did she choose this dilemma? What is needed to help her?

    Folks, many of you see the truth but our job is to get the rest of the country to drop their blinders of ignorance and become sensitive to the good people who need desperately access to health care. Each of us has the potential to be in their shoes.

    One other thing. All the people in Friday night's article appear to be nice people that you would want to know. What happened to them should never have happened.

    If Joe had been able to afford his medicine, he might still be alive today. How many of us know someone who was forced to choose between a roof and/or food in their tummies and buying medicine. I would bet almost all of us know a story like that. We can't say we have the best healthcare system in the world when we allow people to die for lack of medicine. On a side note, Dale broke my heart.

    The after death expenses that the survivors were and are left saddled with makes a mockery of the term "middle class" in that no one in the middle class can be expected to cough up that much money unless they spend the rest of their lives trying. On the other side hospitals whether profit or non-profit and doctors have expenses (equipment, buildings, supplies) they have to pay for.

    To me it seems like the ones with the least overhead and largest profit margin is the insurance industry.

    You think auto insurance is cheap? rofl.

    I tried to get health insurance for my disabled adult kids this year but couldn't. They don't have anything wrong physically so they don't see a doctor very often. They aren't on medicine of any kind. And yet I was unable to get them off medicaid (which republicans and some "conservative" democrats want to do away with).

    Sooner or later we're all going to have a serious illness. It is as inevitable as death is. It doesn't matter what you eat or don't eat. It doesn't matter whether you exercise or don't exercise. We're all going to have a serious illness before we leave the planet and if you think what happened to them won't happen to you because you were "responsible" or if you think that you've got enough money to pay your insurance and deductible, you're incredibly naive. If the treatment and/or medicine costs too much, my years ago personal experience was that they will double your premium and if that doesn't work, they'll double it again. Think about that. Still think you've got enough money?

    It is barbaric that people can't afford their medicine. It is barbaric that people die because they can't afford treatment. This has to change. Obama and the democratic proposition is not enough. I wouldn't even call it a band-aid. It's ineffective. I'm sorry but single payer is the only thing that will actually solve.

    One of the biggest problems with getting real healthcare reform is that so many people won't even recognize that there is a problem. They say things like "Most of the uninsured choose to be uninsured". Really, R.P.? I wonder how many uninsured people you have talked to? I have been uninsured in the past, and believe me, it was not my choice. When my employer dropped coverage a few years back, the only way I could have gotten insurance was through the state, for 900 dollars a month. That didn't include my wife. I don't know about you, but there is not 900 dollars a month I can use for health insurance. And can we please stop bringing out that old strawman, tort reform? If a guy builds me a house and it falls down, I can sue him. If a doctor is drunk and takes out the wrong organ, I think I should have some recourse (providing I survive).

    Where is it written that we must have health insurance ? Most people without insurance made that choice. If we had tort reform, and interstate restrictions on health insurance policies were eliminated we'd be in a position where health insurance would be as affordable as auto insurance.

    To Juan: You are fooling yourself. Let me tell you what can happen to you even though you think you are being responsible, cutting back and prepared for a rainy day. Let's say your insurance is $500 per month (like mine) and you pay it knowing you don't have a great deductible but you figure your covered if something really bad happens. Your pretty healthy and have always worked full time making $100K per year. You or someone in your family gets a little lump that turns out to be cancer. That sucks but you know your covered by insurance so you don't have to worry about the money. Or do you? Does your insurance cover all your treatment? Have you really read your policy from cover to cover? Maybe your going to be sick for a few years. Will your insurance company decide to drop you? See, what happens next is your cancer surgeon makes a claim to your insurance company. They now know you have cancer and you are going to cost them a lot of money. They don't like losing profit. What's the first thing they do? Do they call you to wish you well? NO! They get out your original application and copies of all the medical records you have ever had and start going through them with a fine tooth comb to find any reason whatsoever to dump you. If you have been to a doctor in the last 10 years you have signed a paper agreeing to turn those records over to the insurance company. Now isn't that comforting to know they want to see if you have answered all the original questions honestly? My insurance company found a note from a doctor years earlier during a visit for a headache that said "AA"in her notes. So I get a letter saying they were considering dropping me because I had not disclosed that I had been in "AA" Alcoholics Anonymous...Only guess what? I never had. I had an AUTO ACCIDENT! So you better hope you never told a doctor something you left out of your insurance application. Without insurance and without being able to work, how long will you have till you are one of these people in the video? Don't kid yourself. Anyone can end up like those people with this system we have. That's the whole point! Cassandra

    Maybe we are asking the wrong questions. Those against health care reform use Europe as the model that they are against. But I wonder what the differences are between our "system" and the Europeans in terms of bankruptcy due to major illness, keeping minor diseases from becoming major diseases, financial instability of the economy, etc. I suspect the European system is far superior in preventing financial disasters than ours.

    First, a correction. I wrote "in the spirit of Gulliver" when I meant in the spirit of Jonathan Swift, who was, of course, author of "Gulliver's Travels" but also and more to the point, author of the famous essay, "A Modest Proposal" in which he argued satirically that the Irish famine be managed by serving up the children for dinner.

    As several people have written, good diet and exercise are no guarantee of freedom from health problems. Like them, I also know this from personal experience. I've eaten well and exercised daily my whole life, and was never ill until I had breast cancer at age 61. It was caused by my taking hormone replacement medication to forestal osteoporosis.

    Fortunately, I did have health insurance through my place of employment at the time, and got surgery and radiation therapy. But then I lost my job and was not able to afford to continue the tamoxifin drugs I was supposed to take for several years to minimize the risk of cancer recurrence.

    I was not able to find another position at a large agency where health insurance was provided, (and I suspect this was because the insurance would not take me due to my "preexisting condition".) So I became a self-employed practitioner. As a family therapist I did not make enough to afford private insurance. Subsequently I've worked at practices with other therapists, but these are too small to be able to provide health insurance for their employees. So I remained without insurance until I turned 65 and became elligible for Medicare. I am just lucky I "made it" without a recurrence of the cancer.

    The person who wrote that our health care system is the envy of the world ought to read some of what is being reported in the international press about reactions to our current debate. Most of the rest of the industrialized and democratic world regards health care as a basic moral right and provides universal care. In their eyes our attitudes and practices are immoral and barbaric. I agree with them.

    I would like to request that all the screaming people who are disrupting town meetings and who are on Medicare to please give up their GOVERNMENT RUN healthcare and go buy private insurance.

    Bill Moyers is right to push this health care issue. Our system kills people and it is irrevocably broken. If your healthy and/or have money it is fine. If your neither then your life is literally in danger. The current system is ONLY good for those with money and good health and horrible for everyone else. Wake up America and stop voting against your own best interest.

    It caused me great pain to watch this program tonight and to see how a producer could turn the tragedies of 3 individuals and use them for the purpose of pushing a political agenda. The bias and one sidedness of this fiasco of a supposed journalistic venture was apparent from the beginning and predictable to the end. Never once was it mentioned in this program that private insurance is available to be purchased. I don't make a lot of money and I downgrade my lifestyle so I can pay for my healthcare. But, I will not be one of these stories because I have made the responsible choice and the sacrifice necessary so that I am not stuck with bills if, God forbid, anyone in my family is in need of care.
    I also noticed there was no discussion of the true reasons behind the inflated costs of healthcare which I believe are two fold. One, that we live in a society that is letigious for profit. Too many Americans look at a slip and fall in a chain restaurant like hitting the lottery numbers. The second is the trial lawyers who advertise to this part of America on just about every daytime T.V. channel. These type of lawsuits, and those aimed at doctors especially, are what drive up hospital and insurance costs. If we had some real reform in this area (tort reform) we would see insurance prices come down to a more affordable level and people would not need to go without coverage. Also, if we gave small business owners better tax breaks they could afford better insurance for their employees. Add that to some reform that allows insurance to be portable from job to job without a person having to be reunderwritten and I think we could see cases like those highlighted in this program come to an end without the destruction of a healthcare system that is the envy of the world and loss of our freedoms by enlarging the powers of government.

    I am a liberal Democrat and am for single payer health care, regardless of how people came to be sick. Otherwise that's being judgmental, and I am not God. As so many have already said, most of us are merely one medical crisis away from disaster. Health care by for-profit companies does more for their pockets than for the patients. I'm a medical transcriptionist for a small surgical clinic, and I helped a surgeon craft a letter to a patient's insurance agency. The patient "WM" was employed and coping with diabetes when he developed a sore on the bottom of one foot. My surgeon boss dictated in his notes that WM needed an orthotic shoe insert designed for him to keep weight off the sore so it would heal, but he doubted WM's insurance company would pay for it. I wrote a letter, thinking like a "protect-the-bottom-line insurance company," describing how WM eventually could lose his foot and wind up as a disability case, if this orthotic shoe supplement was not covered. The surgeon signed the letter, and was happily surprised that the insurance paid to help the man.

    In addition to my comments earlier about getting sick and having my insurance company dump me till I got a lawyer, I notice again all the comments that really judge the people featured in the doc. It is absolutely true that poverty leads to obesity. People buy cheaper high glycemic foods and many people don't realize that the prices at Whole Foods have come down. It is almost to the point where all food is so expensive you might as well buy good food. I was a Chef for many years and eat very well. Again, I'm fit and take care of myself but I still got cancer and I still got dumped by the insurance company. Don't you people get that this system is morally wrong? Are you really so ethnocentric to think that the US has the best care in the world. Not only isn't that true but I'm starting to think we have lower IQs in this country when I see people quote what they hear on FOX news and are so detached from reality. I sure do hope Obama remembers his own mom when he moves this reform forward. I also hope liberal apathy doesn't take over. Let's catch up with the rest of the developed world people!

    I am in my 70's and have a few sighs of aging. I drink a lot of wine and it doesn't seam to be harming me. Mnch surgery is unecessary and possibly bill's heart surgery too. Not to worry because he had insurance. Undoubtedly that is why it was performed.That is what they told my 97 year old friend. He has hundreds of million of dollars and is a trustee of one of the most prestigious medical centers in america. They said if you don't have this surgery, you will go blind.

    "Bias" - prejudice, partiality, unfairness, preconceived notion, foregone conclusion.

    There is widespread documented evidence of weight bias in employment, educational, interpersonal, and in medical settings. And in some of the posts that I have read.

    If one doesn’t have the economic resources for health insurance and necessary medical care, perhaps there is a correlation to obesity.

    Obesity is the toxic consequence of our failing economy, not to mention the economic consequences of a catastrophic illness. The overwhelming cause for obesity is poverty. Obesity, diabetes and other related health problems are more prevalent in poor communities. Poverty in the United States is double that of other industrialized nations. Obesity affects hits poor people the hardest. About 31 percent of women in households with incomes less than $15,000 a year are obese, compared to just 17 percent in homes that make more than $50,000.

    Food prices have gone up during this economic crisis. There is abundant evidence that energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods are chosen because they are cheap, produce satiety, and are widely promoted and readily available. Poor people eat more canned fruits and vegetables containing more sugar and salt (processed foods). These are the types of foods that poor people can afford, if they eat at all. People may eat well when money is available, but skip meals when cash is short, a cycle that slows their metabolism and causes them to gain weight.

    Is this a time to give up being kind? Caring for others is what makes us fully human. Scapegoating sacrifices our kindness. We are all vulnerable and we have no better resource than each other. How and why have so many forgot about kindness? Independence and self-reliance are now the great aspirations rather than compassion for our fellow citizens. This is truly a sinister symptom of our times.

    personal responsiblity?

    how exactly do I get rid of epilepsy through exercise? how about tremor disorders or neurologically based eyesight disorders?

    How about cancer? My dad was more regimented than anyone Ive ever known. he was almost entirely a vegetarian and he exercised several hours every day. A brain tumor took him out inside of a year.

    personal responsiblity?

    eating better and exercising will help everyone but it doesnt prevent the major health issues that casue people to need expensive doctors like neurologists and the medicines and tests they proscribe.

    I couldnt even afford to see a neuro. Iwas offered insurance once at a cost of $360 per month which was 25% of my income and it wouldnt even cover any of medical problems. I did my best to manage my own conditions.

    I share the disappointment of those who think this "debate" is going to end up nowhere. As a lifelong Democrat, I think it's time for a political realignment. We have to pull ourselves away from the current political system that offers us pie during the campaigns, and then serves us crumbs after the election. Progressives are the base of the Democratic Party and the Obama election; I'm tired of being thrown under the bus.

    Thanks Bill for your efforts to support healthcare reform. I am not sure if you will succeed, but we all need to look at ourselves and decide if we want to be the ME country without any empathy or help for our less fortunate fellow citizens. I am sad to see this happening in our wonderful country. I hope it is not the majority, but it is certainly noisiest.

    I tend to share the sentiments of the bloggers who promote personal responsibility for preventive health care and ongoing healthy living. In my practice as a family therapist I regularly review with my clients how they can help themselves do this, and I think most physicians used to do the same -(when they were permitted to take the time to converse with their patients, i.e., before insurance carriers limited them to 5-7 minutes per patient and/or to treating only one problem per visit.) I would also guess that many a physician has had frustrated moments of wishing he or she could limit his/her practice to patients who responsibly managed their health and stress level by exercising, eating & sleeping well, etc.

    It is too bad that POV didn't anticipate that the personal healthcare habits of the subjects they chose would be a "red herring" that would distract viewers from the main thrust of their intended message about health insurance coverage.

    On the other hand, it might amusing to imagine for a moment (with Twain and Gulliver) what a privately insured health care system would look like if it were only available to people who ate healthy food, exercised regularly, managed stress and got enough sleep...

    Wouldn't these restrictions toss out most of the rich and powerful along with the white collar middle class and "working stiffs"? Think of the rich beefy diets enjoyed on Wall St. and K St, and the liberal ingestion of alcohol. Think of our almost standard 60--80 hour work weeks, skimpy or nonexistent vacations, two working parent families.
    I would recommend that we try to construct a "both..and" proposal that would both promote healthy self-care and provide medical (and dental and visual) care to all citizens. This probably cannot happen unless or until we relenquish our national worship of the great god, Mammon (primacy of growing profits for shareholders), and our false application of the idea of "market forces" to health care. (See James K Galbraith, the Predator State, for a cogent argument on the latter).

    Dawn Burke:

    I am repeating myself again.

    you said you travelled far and wide, did you not know that this country is Capitalistic. What you see on TV is advertisements in FOOD, FOOD, FOOD all processed foods. WHY? - because this is how capitalism works. Money is all they care about. And when there is nothing else to do they still yearn for more money.

    What does the middle class and the poor do, is watch TV and get obsessed with foods and eat chips and sodas.

    Actually there are many people that eat chips and sodas and have no medical problems. while certain races get biabetic, blood pressure and kidney disease to mention just a few.

    I come from a socialized country under the British.
    nobody talks about what healthy foods you should eat or drink This is freedom.

    But In our country the Government instead of fighting illegal wars and trying to be the big Monitor chief of the World, just spends that money for the Poople.


    Don't you have guts?. What gives you the right to sit high on the fence. Don't get too high, you might not know how far you will have to jump down.

    Nancy King,
    I came from a third-world country(American Saying), it was a British Colony.

    Not knowing what happened in America - Slavery, racial discrimination, Civil Rights - This was not heard of in my country. The people were given healthcare just like they have in England. But coming to the United states, I don't even know why they call it the United States - Every state is different. In Arizona they have laws like "The right to work" also "Work at will". These are Slave laws, Even the Blacks, like the NAACP have no say in whatever goes on, they are usually put in prison, the Gates problem is very true. I could go on forever.

    My point is I was laid off - actually fired. I am taking a million dollar case against them. I heard this is impossible, but just to confront these crooked managers and the CEO makes me very happy.

    I was told to go with Cobra, but after checking the payments, $600/a month, I said forget it. Now I am in AHCCCS and making only $855/- a month, but I am very happy, for the time being. I don't know what state you are in. Is there any government program to help you.

    Forget the debait. Nothing is going to happen.The more insurance, the higher the cost. A long time ago I could go for a visit to the doctors office and it would cost me $2.00. In 1957 it was $35.00 to tell me it was carpel tunnel syndrome, which is just a vitamin B6 deficiancy, but he didn't tell me, if he even't knew. I did not even earn $35.00 a week as a hospital orderly. I quit and did something else.Aeorspace which didn't pay much more.


    Half your comments are credible but the other half is urterly out of this world.

    Do you think you have the right to depict what one should live by. this is communist china.

    As I said before " The land of the free and the home of the brave" is pure bull.

    She fed him until it killed him. Now they want free healthcare?

    She fed him until it killed him. Now they want free health care?

    In watching 'The Human Toll' two things popped out at me; lifestyle and victimization. We have evolved into a society that finds it difficult to be responsible for ourselves. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco and fast food need to be outlawed or, at a minimum, heavily taxed. Strip malls and suburbs need to be replaced with walkable communities. Physical education should be mandatory throughout school and into adulthood. People need to stay out of the sun, eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep and have a good balance between work and pleasure. Four week vacations should be a standard at any job along with a livable wage. an insurance industry that profits off the ill should be a crime. If all the 'victims' in this story had working spouses, no more than two children, didn't smoke or drink, ate well and exercised, they would be enjoying life today. Yes, our healthcare industry leaves a lot to be desired. And so do people who don't take responsibility for themselves.

    After reading all the comments I find myself in agreement with many if them--especially those who want to promote personal responsibility.And this is not just a "blame the victim" stance. This a BIG part of our problem- ie overweight and smoking. I am a nurse and last week had a patient who was obese and had not seen a DR in 12 yrs. Her blood pressure was off the meter & she was sent immediately to the ER. Our community has 2 med schools & nursing schools who do aLOT of public outreach---free blood pressure screenings prostate and skin cancer screenings to name a few. If I were in the situation of no insurance it would be prudent to take advantage of those things. What do you have to do to "educate" people about being responsible? And this of course is not JUST in healthcare. A note of interest--My daughter was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer 15 years ago(very healthy 32 yr old)--DR.SMITH saved her life!!How VERY lucky she was to get such great care. They had medical insurance but had to take out a second mortgage on their home to pay the 20% not covered Carolyn

    I saw your show last night and wanted to throw up. Although I have decent health insurance very expensive , I am self-employed. That means that I am one premium payment away from the subjects of the documentary. So far I have made it a priority to maintain the coverage, but it has tripled in cost in the past 5 years...

    I agree that we are what we eat and we should be teaching better eating habits and making better food more affordable. There is certainly plenty of cheap food, but that is a story for another day. I work with a woman who is a health enthusiast - a vegan and a purist even when it comes down to her makeup. She contracted breast cancer and is fighting the battle. Food is not the only answer - health care for all is the answer - the best answer

    I was sick to my stomach watching this show. I kept thinking that this could be any of us who now have health insurance but if we become unemployed with no benefits, we would be like these poor suffering people. I could barely fight the tears. How anyone could be against health reform or access to medical care for all is criminal. There are some wonderful comments here and thank you Bill Moyers for all you do.

    When are you going to lower the price of organic food so that poor and lower middle class people can afford it? When are you going to find jobs that don't exhaust a person at the end of the day and where/how does exercise, in addition to family responsibilities and demands fit in the picture without overwhelming the individual? You can beat up on people for not living as you think theyh should live but if they can't afford it or if they're too tired to follow through it means little or nothing and they stop listening.

    A very sad state of affairs for most Americans. Be interesting when this whole affair is over..who will be the winners and who are the losers.

    When are we going to wake up and realize that health does not come from doctors, but from our very own responsibility to ourselves through good diet, exercise, and positive thinking? Bill, where is Michael Pollan when we need him? This is a good time to invite him back to The Journal. We blame doctors (or lack of), insurance companies (or lack of), pharmaceuticals (or lack of), our government (or lack of); we blame everybody but who is truly holding the reigns: ourselves! Not only does living a wholistic life based on harmony with nature alleviate obesity and most other health issues, but a healthy brain brings intelligence into our minds so we can make a living wage and make clear lifestyle choices. It brings altruism into the heart so we feel love and compassion, and can get out of our "me" consciousness. It brings simplicity and ease in handling life challenges because an inner strength comes with the outer. Let's step up to the plate: stop eating boxed food; there is NO nutritional value in them and they are loaded with poisonous cancer-causing chemical preservatives. Stop empty sugar that pollutes the body and wrecks havoc with the glandular and digestive systems. Stop saturated fats that clog arteries and the liver. Give up chips! Grow some food, even in a pot. Eat something alive and raw with every meal. Live food produces life in the body. Move your body. A car that sits rusts; why do you think your body won't? Breathe deeply while you're moving. Breath is life. Breath is ease. Part of this crisis was created by our own common greed such as in medical malpractice suits. And greedy suits like the one over MacDonald's coffee being too hot. Stop blaming the other guy, trying to get something for nothing. Take responsibility for yourself NOW. Live the life our creation was designed to live. Give thanks for this precious life and do it justice.

    I knew as I was watching the documentary that many people would judge the featured patients. Rich's comments are particularly disturbing because I am a huge fan of Joseph Campbell and don't think he would weigh in like Rich has. The bottom line is that these are people that have been devastated by illness and could get better more cost effective care and cheaper medicine in a third world country. I have worked hard my whole life and had insurance when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two days later my insurance company put my case in "review" suspected I had a pre-existing condition. Later they dropped me completely due to their suspicions. This made an already difficult situation worse and my case isn't unusual. By the way I'm not fat and take very good care of myself. Luckily I was making enough money to hire an attorney and my insurance company was forced to reinstate me but not before I filed bankruptcy on $150K worth of doctor bills because the laws were about to change. I am grateful I have insurance at all but it is very expensive, is a terrible plan and keeps going up. But no other insurance company will take me. So I wish the O administration would go all the way to socialized medicine. People should get wellness treatments and have better diets but nobody should suffer because they can't afford their medicine. And there but for the grace of God go I. To all those judgmental people. Cassandra

    Dear Bill,
    I watched your Friday August 21, 2009 program regarding health care for those who can't afford health insurance. I'm one of those people.

    I've been coping with ulcerative colitis and peptic ulcers forty years and been managing these conditions by learning as much as possible about preventive care and practicing it through diet, making my own raw vegetable juices, stopped smoking, etc.

    One of the three people you show-cased in your program was a gigantic fatso; it's amazing he lived as long as he did.

    The back surgery person who was about to have his fourth child and complaining that he couldn't afford health insurance was totally irresponsible financially speaking. Come on, four children?!? To paraphrase the late Joseph Campbell, to give birth to more than two children is obscene in today's over populated world.

    I don't want to die, like most of us, but it's an absolute certainty for all of us someday. Your program is a testament to the fact that people will spend exhorbitant amounts of money (even if they don't have it) to live just a few more weeks or months.

    Who is going to pay for that exhorbitant irresponsibility?

    I don't want Obama-Care, and definetly don't want to be forced to pay for something I can't afford. I also don't feel that some one who has succeeded in earning $350,000 or more per year should be forced to pay for my health insurance. If I die as a result? Well, that will be a bummer for me, but that's life. There are too many people in the world. The human race has way over populated the earth like a cancer out of control. Most people are looking for quick fixes, and getting that quick fix for free. There is no quick fix and nothing is free.

    Your program would have been of greater service if it had been about personal responsibility and learning how to optimize good health by eating properly and not being financially irresponsible by having the expense of four children and then crying that health insurance can't be afforded.

    What on earth is going on in that La-Dee-Da, goodie two shoes, out-of-touch with reality brain of yours to air such an irresponsible liberal program promoting free health insurance for poor people? If people aren't willing to eat properly or be financially responsible then let them die, including me. I disagree with Obama's spend, spend, spend, tax, tax, tax redistribution of wealth to aid poor people like me.

    Very sincerely, Rich

    I do believe the current proposals would help the current health care system. Unfortunately however, either they won't get enacted and if they were to become law, our nation's health is so far down the tubes that it would take massive amounts of government severing its ties to big business in order to get us healthy, which also will be hard to happen!!! 45 million uninsured people is in plain terms, sick!!!! It is digusting that our health care industry is only a profit making machine! This country is only rich b/c it takes from its citizens. It takes in the form of taxes and poorly distributed subsidies, it takes b/c it feeds its people horrible and practically criminal food as in junk food, fast food processed food, it takes b/c it makes its citizens believe that it is more important to have things like nice cars, like Target store junk, clothes, gadgets and frivelous things rather than healthy food and having to exercise, meditate, commune with our community and take well deserved vacations, it takes b/c most Americans aren't allowed to take vacations from work, it takes b/c it makes its citizens believe that just to have a job is good enough for the soul; rather than to feed our individual soul, it takes b/c it feeds its citizens so many lies about what freedom means. Freedom does not mean choose b/w 200 boxes of Kelloggs cereal, it means taking care of oneself...but unfortunately only a few are equipped with the fortitude to make such "independent" choices. And you wonder why so many people are ill? Don't you see that it is big business that is killing us? Big business is Kraft, is Con Agra, is the Media and its advertisements, is McDonalds, is the US dept. of Agriculture that allows companies to feed us hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, colors, chemical agents of every kind in food, in personal hygene products, in household products, in our water supply...everywhere, pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, GMO. And you the government is so big, powerful and impervious to the suffering of its people. Behind the scenes you sit and lie in bed with big business to get elected and then in front of the world you paint a picture of publicity, pros and cons, arguments when really you are bashing in our heads with the runaround! It makes me sick to my stomach. Watch Bill Moyers from 8/21/09 and you will see, read "Healthy at 100" by John Robbins and you will see what it takes to be a healthy country and what it takes to care for a country's people. This country has become a dog eat dog world where unless you were born into priviledge, you are out on a limb. In this country, the class system has been revived; it is alive and well. Shame on us all!

    Here in Nebraska, we have Senator Ben Nelson who seems timid about taking a stand for or against the "public option" or any health reform proposal. He "wants to think it over" before making his position known. May G-d bless all those politicians who were strong enough to take the criticisms of the emotionally charged up henchpeople of the Republicans. It takes real courage to be a leader.

    Enid Gooch: There has been no "welfare" since Clinton-era law set short time limits on eligibility. Foodstamp swipe cards will not feed anyone a whole month, and so have to be supplemented by charity or panhandling. Medicaid, as testified below, keeps people in misery (no dental), and not always alive. Our capitalist disability insurance is a crime where payments are often recouped after years by subrogation and pre-existing condition decisions are a death sentence. (I have recordings of some heart wrenching calls at a large carrier.) Social Security Disability is slow or never in coming even for the severely impaired.We have the same unsafe net as India. As income falls we will begin to see some of the highlights from "Slumdog Millionaire" decorate our metropolises. So how does a poor single mother choose anything besides wage slavery? It's do or die, though they may throw the kids a free lunch or CHIP (begrudging immunizations and screenings, often by degraders) sometimes.
    Enid, why not use a flu shot as an excuse to visit your local county health department, and observe firsthand how the cattle are polled. Most of them moo in English as a first language.

    Being retired has given me a lot of time to thoroughly examine all aspects of the current healthcare debate and I have come to the conclusion that this debate is once again going to end in stalemate. This is another win for the for-profit healthcare industry that will continue to reap massive profits from this dysfunctional system that has long been a cash cow for them to plunder.

    I recently went on Medicare last January after my 65th birthday. I had previously been without healthcare for five years after a layoff. I was on Cobra for the full 18 month term paying $750 monthly for coverage through my former company’s health plan. Six months into Cobra and I encountered a heart condition that required the placement of two stints in my heart. The surgery returned me to perfect health which I still enjoy today and the insurance picked up most of the $75,000.00 cost. The down side is the fact that I could no longer qualify for private health insurance at any price which severely limited my job prospects as companies will not hire people that their insurance carrier rejects. A previous heart condition and Cancer are two pre-existing conditions that are guaranteed to be denied by private health insurance.

    One thing I discovered after losing Cobra coverage is that a majority of the private practice doctors in this country are compassionate individuals who will work with you to provide physicians care at a reasonable price. During this period my family doctor found a growth under one eye that was tested and confirmed to be malignant skin cancer. The specialist I was referred to was willing to work with me to avoid a $30,000 day surgery hospital bill by removing the cancer in his office. Total bill: $350.00. The doctors can’t control these outrageous costs outside their office !

    Health care is a right!!!!! Not a privilege like having an drivers license!!!!!

    This comes down to the question of why we should care about ppl. It is not necessarily a matter of compassion, indeed compassion generally costs a lot of money, which, if we don't have, means decreasing the value of all money, which in turn increases the value of assets, which are overwhelmingly owned by the wealthy, making them relatively wealthier and driving up prices of things like health care, education, and housing. Rather it is simply that money and much of what in this industrial world money can buy is merely a claim on labor, which, without that labor, is worthless. The economic, no less than the natural world, consists of myriad interdependencies that provide mutual benefit. Not even parasites kill their hosts. And even if money were not such, the mere possession of things like gold is of no more real value than it was to King Midas. How things got so far out-of-kilter is due to central banking making it possible to make money that no one has previously had to work for, save and invest. This reduces labor to an insignificance that is even below that of serfs, slaves, and 19th century factory workers. The wealthy once thought it had to keep them healthy, but now it has been led to believe the game is not worth the candle, that by some alchemy greed is good, or, as we hear more often these days, that a revival of "animal spirits" is needed. The economic, social and environmental disintegration we see all around us ought to be proof that it is not.

    Back when my brother died, the big issue for republicans was single mothers. I always wondered if they sorted out "unworthy" single mothers with children from "worthy" single mothers with children through tragedy like my sister-in-law. I tend to believe that they didn't bother. It was much easier to simply point a finger of accusation at any woman who they saw with children and no man in sight.

    Same thing goes for the personal responsibility/worthy eating habits argument.

    I just finished watching your show and find myself feeling like I move back and forth between parallel universes as I watch what's happening in mainstream medicine which focuses on symptoms, and then see the many complementary modalities that focus on wellness. Earlier today I heard a great interview with Dr. Pat Wynnjones (, a physician in LA who combines allopathic and complementary treatments which result in better outcomes and fewer dollars spent ( - the August 19 show). I also just watched "The Living Matrix"(
    about the leading edge of biology and healing, and wonder why so few of our doctors know anything about this new information.

    I think everyone is missing the point of this program.

    Did these people lead unhealthy/unresponsible lives? Most likely.

    Can we legislate that people must lead healthly lives? No.

    Will the US ever let someone who enters an emergency room near death die without care? Hopefully never.

    Will I (the taxpayer) have to pay for that last minute care? Yes.

    Would I have rather paid a fraction of that cost to catch and treat the issue early? Definitely.

    Even if you are a heartless conservative, treating uninsured people with proper healthcare at the right time will allow you to keep more of your precious money... issue solved!

    While I am all for healthcare reform in the US, especially after living in many "socialized" countries, I have a major problem with helping people in the US who do no help themselves. I am a mother of 2 children. My husband and I make sure our children understand the importance of eating healthy food. We eat mostly organic, that we grow. It is not cost prohibitive if you grow it. We do not live on a farm, but in an urban area. We think about what we eat and what we feed our family. My parents were immigrants from Ireland, we never ate processed food. When I saw your program tonight, I could not understand how the people on your show got to such a stage. Why should we not encourage people to eat healthy, get out and exercise and not overeat. Processed food will be the death of this country. While I feel organic food is very important, if people just walked away from processed food, it would help them immensely. We need dietary care for more people. It would cost our country so much less money if we looked at what people were eating and what exercise they were doing than just prescribe long term medication without just cause. Wake up America!

    I just watched your show on medical insurance, and in it was a comment that medical care in this country is discriminatory in that its based on the ability to pay. If I am bold enough to choose to commit a crime, and can't afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for me at no charge. If I am a good guy and get cancer, or some other major illness, I'm left to fend for myself. Can't it be argued that if I am sick and can't afford a doctor myself, a primary care physician should be provided for me? Is there a class action suit there? Where are the lawyers when you want them?

    I grew up in a very comfortable environment. Private schools, maids, Neiman Marcus, summer breaks in the city. I lived in an apartment and had my college tuition paid by my loans or anything like that. New cars when I wanted, etc. I am stating this not in hubris or vanity or envy or longing but, to set the scenario.

    My father became seriously ill and almost died several times in the course of two years. We/he had the best insurance money could buy. Private rooms, best doctors...again, you name it. We provided our own private sitters, and we had done so with my maternal grandmother (who was on medicare) as well. She had been diagnosed terminal but outlasted two husbands...the only kinda humorous anecdote to this saga. We were lucky, part of the status quo. After two years of medical issues, my father was dropped from the insurance we had, couldn't find anyone to cover him at all and paid upward of $250,000.00 out of his own save face and, not to mention his life. He lost his business, a farm, he lost his house and his dignity. Bankruptcy was the only solution. It changed our lives. I understand that there are many facets to this flawed gem called health care reform but, I wonder if all those who have been through something like my father's dilemma directly or indirectly would change their minds? I understand that many fear that they, themselves are but just a heartbeat away from disaster however, where is compassion. It's not in a boardroom or on the hill...that I can assure you. So, for all the screamers on BOTH sides, it could happen to you and how would you react if you perceived it could happen to you and someone might be trying to take the only thing that you think you can rely upon for your safety away? And, FYI, I am in favor of a public option or single payer plan.

    I was a social worker for 30 years. I come from a working class family where I was the only one to graduate college plus obtained a masters degree. After a lifetime of hard work of helping others and helping my own parents through the bureaucratic maze in obtaining healthcare, I find myself at the age of 53 jobless and paying almost $500 a month for COBRA which will run out next August. I used up all my savings just to survive the past 2 years as I had 2 surgies within 8 months of each other. The surgies were suppose to take care of my condition but I still have the same presenting problems. Right before my first surgery, my 86 year old mother suffered a stroke. I managed to obtain a nursing home bed for her but my sister and I are getting the run around trying to get her approved for a Medicaid bed as her meager resources are soon to run out. We had to clean out what was left of the family farm and sell the home and property during the so called market crash where we practically gave it away.
    I worry about care for my mother. I worry about what will become of me when my short term disability insurance runs out in January. My house is on the market & my debts are accummulating. How did this happen to me? I was a law abiding, tax paying citizen who spent my life helping others. I know what lies ahead - when I no longer can aford heath insurance next August- no one (health care providers) will provide care because I will not have money. It only took one health crisis to put me into poverty. Health care plus the basic needs of food and shelter need to be given to everyone regardless of status, race, color, nationality. I don't care what political term you want to put on it- it just doesn't matter. It is everyone's responsiblity both from the public and private sectors and individuals. People are more important than money.

    thank you again Bill, excellent program and timing.

    I suspect that a "true" healthcare bill will not be passed. Some sort of bill of course will be passed, but it will fall short of helping folks like those on this program.

    I am a supporter of single-payer healthcare (HR676) and that is the only way to "fix" healthcare.

    Otherwise, I support a total nationalization of the entire healthcare industry.
    Personal responsibility? We do not know if the person was a smoker, but to assume "smoker" is wrong. Overweight person? Is that from illness or fatburgers? Again, assuming fat by "personal choice" is wrong.

    On tonight's program 2 couples were presented. The first couple were obvious multiple pack per day smokers. Clearly a shame that this woman is going through cancer. Perhabs if they re-directed their monthly cigarrette Premiums to a health policy they would have been covered. In the meantime it appears that they were receiving top notch care, which they won't have to pay for..
    The second couple must have weighed 600lbs between them. The poor fellow, receiving care in the hospital, had liver disease.They as well won.t have to pay.
    The majority of people in this country are covered. Reforming a system to make care more affordable is an excellent idea but not at the expense of a majority who are covered and generally pleased with their care. Maybe you should all go back to school and enhance your job skills and carrer opportunities instead of whining for handouts! And stop smoking and eating yourselves to death!!!!!

    I am a true liberal. Yes, we need health insurance for all. However, where does personal responsibility come to play in the examples shown?
    One gentleman was way overweight, was the woman with cancer a smoker?, why another pregnancy when there is no health insurance and 3 children already? We must more strongly stress the win-win of good health habits...better quality of life and lower health costs.

    After the debacle of bank / car bailout, one has to wonder when the American citizen will come to realize that they have no Government run by politicians, only Government run by the elitists of the so called free market. To have a debate on health care reform means to have a debate on the demise of democracy in favour of unbridled avarice, commonly called the private enterprise, which has no moral or ethical obligations to the citizens, only the cummulation of more concentrated power.

    The politicians and ceo,s made laws so that employers could work people 39hrs a week and then they did not have to pay heath care.Because it saved the companies mega bucks. Both politicians and corporations have sold the american worker out.Look at GM for instance moving factories to MEXICO,CHINA & INDIA! No health care! No EPA! No labor rights and cheap wages! Where is all the money they saved? Let WALMART bail them out!!!

    people were arrested when they wore a shirt critizing bush but guns are allowed when obama speaks.

    socialized medicine? what would all the seniors be doing if we didn't have health care. are we americans not humiliated that we are the only first class society not to protect our citizens. i'm ashamed at the recent behavior of my fellow citizens.

    To share a personal story: my fiancee was unable to find permanent work for four years (two in Oregon/Washington, two in Mass.). Without permanent, full-time employment, he was unable to afford health insurance, even if he'd been accepted given a pre-existing condition of grand mal seizures. Three years ago, he died due to an enlarged heart condition combined with a seizure. Access to a doctor for regular check-ups would have informed us of the heart condition and given us prevention options. To say that those who can't afford health insurance can simply go to the emergency room is a lie. Nevermind the expense of the ER (and the ambulance bill). An ER isn't there to catch problems in the early stages -- you can't walk in and simply demand a physical.

    This country needs affordable, universal health insurance coverage.

    This is a very simular arguement to the one the UK had over the last 100 years. In the end, the UK decided that the NHS system was their preference because it helps people who can't afford insurance.
    I hope that USA follows the UK towards a tax-funded system.

    When I was in my 20s I had no health insurance. I was a single mom and was working a low paying job and going to night school hoping to make a better life for my son. I would pray at night that we would not get sick or hurt. That was 25 years ago. My son is now 27 and is an architect. He works for a small firm and, guess what, he has no health insurance. Now it looks like my grandchildren probably won't have health insurance either. Pathetic.

    My daughter, like so many in this country, worked for employers who did not offer health ins. How many are there - working for low wages and no ins.? Of course, you could buy your own ins., but at what cost? It would take all your earnings. I know people who have worked under these conditions and would be better off on welfare, but they had pride. Seems we are making a mockery of all of our old ideals and principles.

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