STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 20th, 2009, by Staff
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These are the faces of the uninsured. Look at their photos. Read their stories, told in their own words. And if you are one of the 46 million Americans without health insurance, share your story with us.

Age: 32

City of residence: Chicago, Illinois

How long have you been uninsured?

I’ve been uninsured all my life. That’s how I grew up. No one had insurance where I grew up.

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

I never needed insurance.

How has not having health insurance impacted your life?

Not having health insurance hasn’t impacted my life in the 32 years I’ve been here. It has impacted others I know.

How do you obtain routine care?

I haven’t had any routine care, which may impact my life in the future.

What have you done/will you do in the case of an emergency?

I don’t know. 911 costs an arm and a leg.

What do you want people to know about life without health insurance?

It is hard. So without the routine care, you don’t know what you look at down the road. But all we need to do is look at those before us. I’ve seen the impact it has had on the generation before me … seeing my aunts, uncles, and older cousins, fighting for their lives … not having good health insurance.

What do you want the government to know about life without health insurance?

The government … needs to help its citizens by giving them the option of free health care.

For more on healthcare reform, tune in to PBS on Thursday, September 24th at 9pm for a 90-minute report. Tavis Smiley, NOW on PBS and Nightly Business Report are collaborating to produce the in-depth special called “PBS Special Report on Healthcare Reform.”

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 20th, 2009, by Staff
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These are the faces of the uninsured. Look at their photos. Read their stories, told in their own words. And if you are one of the 46 million Americans without health insurance, share your story with us.

Age: 32

City of residence: San Francisco

How long have you been uninsured? 6 months

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

I am uninsured because I am a part-time worker. My weekly hours fall just below the 40-hour mark, so I don’t qualify for insurance.

How has not having health insurance impacted your life?

Without insurance, I put off routine visits to the doctor. I try to make it for my annual visit to the gynecologist. Because I don’t have insurance, I utilize the free clinics in my city, which means long waits and a different doctor every visit. I can’t afford to see a dentist. If I were to be involved in an accident, I don’t know what I would do.

How do you obtain routine care?

Routine care is not an affordable option for me.

What have you done/will you do in the case of an emergency?

Luckily, I have not had to make a trip to the emergency room. But I am terrified of that day. My bicycle is my primary form of transportation. If I were hit by a car, I honestly do not know what I would do. I could never afford a hospital bill. I would probably spend the rest of my life trying to pay something like that down.

What do you want people to know about life without health insurance?

Life without health insurance is terrifying. I am scared of being in an accident. I am scared to get sick. I have to suffer through illness, hoping that the average cold won’t progress to something more serious. Every day is a gamble without health insurance.

What do you want the government to know about life without health insurance?

I don’t think it is fair to deny someone health insurance. I work hard. I put myself through school. I contribute to my community. I have pulled myself up by my bootstraps, and I still don’t have health insurance. Health care is a right, not a luxury. I am tired of living in fear. I want the access I deserve-not to expensive treatments, tests, etc. I want to know that if I am sick, I can get help.

(Photo credit: Giana Pieraccini)

For more on healthcare reform, tune in to PBS on Thursday, September 24th at 9pm for a 90-minute report. Tavis Smiley, NOW on PBS and Nightly Business Report are collaborating to produce the in-depth special called “PBS Special Report on Healthcare Reform.”

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 20th, 2009, by Staff
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These are the faces of the uninsured. Look at their photos. Read their stories, told in their own words. And if you are one of the 46 million Americans without health insurance, share your story with us.

Age: 26

City of residence: Billings, MT

How long have you been uninsured? 2 years

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

Pre-existing condition, and unemployed

How has not having health insurance impacted your life?

When you have a congenital heart defect like mine it isn’t a matter of if things are going to take a turn for the worse, but when.  In my case it just happened at the wrong time and place …

The financial burden has, of course, had its effect on my every day life. It has made my wife and I choose between paying bills that allow us to have a roof over our head and food on our table or pay the doctors that saved my life.  While I will be forever indebted to the cardiologists at Billings Clinic and UW Medical Center, I am the breadwinner of my family and must act accordingly.

I deal with medical bill collectors day after day who want only to be reimbursed for the services they provided and of which I desperately needed but have no means of paying them because of the way our current health care system is set up. In my opinion this is unacceptable and needs to change.

How do you obtain routine care?

By only visiting the doctor in emergency situations, which is no way to live.

What have you done/will you do in the case of an emergency?

The only thing I can do, rack up more personal debt.

What do you want people to know about life without health insurance?

It is unacceptable and should not be tolerated by the American people.  We need to stand together and fight for a change.

What do you want the government to know about life without health insurance?

Those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be born with good health or have a government health plan for our families need you to act as our fellow Americans and fight for us as our leaders to assure that we all have the opportunity to seek medical guidance. It is in your hands now to fight for the underdog and show other nations that we can stand united and look after our own …

(Photo credit: Tiffany Randich)

For more on healthcare reform, tune in to PBS on Thursday, September 24th at 9pm for a 90-minute report. Tavis Smiley, NOW on PBS and Nightly Business Report are collaborating to produce the in-depth special called “PBS Special Report on Healthcare Reform.”

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 20th, 2009, by Staff
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These are the faces of the uninsured. Look at their photos. Read their stories, told in their own words. And if you are one of the 46 million Americans without health insurance, share your story with us.

Age: 26

City of residence: New Orleans, Louisiana

How long have you been uninsured? Five months.

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

I am starting a new … business … in New Orleans and only working part-time at another establishment. Part-time status doesn’t allow any benefits, or healthcare, but in order to focus more on my new venture, this is the difficult choice that I was forced to make.

How has not having health insurance impacted your life?

Being uninsured has definitely impacted my outlook on the present health reform plan. As an entrepreneur, you always have to look for ways to cut back start-up costs, while also keeping your staff happy and healthy. I am constantly searching for affordable dental and health insurance plans, although it’s close to impossible to afford any of these benefits, for employees or yourself …

Before relocating to New Orleans, the healthcare reform issue touched home for the first time when I became pretty sick and needed immediate care while on an internship … I was forced to receive treatment from a … hospital that served mostly low-income, or uninsured patients. It was my first … experience without insurance…

There was a distinct difference between my treatment at this hospital (for the uninsured) versus ALL of my prior treatments while being insured …
I was treated like dirt, and left in a waiting room for over 10 hours. I was misdiagnosed and told to come back to the hospital again the next day.

How do you obtain routine care?

… I haven’t experienced any major conditions, so I haven’t had to return to the doctor.

What have you done/will you do in the case of an emergency?

… I will be forced to deal with a public or county health clinic for the uninsured again.

What do you want people to know about life without health insurance?

It can be a bit scary. When you have a cold, or a low-risk health condition that can be cured by over-the-counter medicine, then you’re not so worried.

However, when you’re told that you have cancer or a terminal illness, where expensive medicines are required to survive, then you’re forced to pinch pennies in order to afford treatment. Then there are times, when you have to go totally without.

What do you want the government to know about life without health insurance?

Please work with President Obama on the reconstruction of our health care system. Although no plan is perfect, I am confident in our president’s new plan and abilities. … Things cannot stay the same.

For more on healthcare reform, tune in to PBS on Thursday, September 24th at 9pm for a 90-minute report. Tavis Smiley, NOW on PBS and Nightly Business Report are collaborating to produce the in-depth special called “PBS Special Report on Healthcare Reform.”

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 20th, 2009, by Staff
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These are the faces of the uninsured. Look at their photos. Read their stories, told in their own words. And if you are one of the 46 million Americans without health insurance, share your story with us.

Age: 60

City of residence: Hayward, CA

How long have you been uninsured? 16 months

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 2.5 years ago and required to undergo 7 months of chemotherapy. During that time, I was too sick to work. I had a senior level position with a Fortune 500 company. They informed me that, due to needs of the business, they could not hold my job for me until I got well enough to return. Consequently, I lost my group insurance plan that I had for 24 years. I received Cobra coverage (which was $600/month). But, I had to have it, so I paid that premium for 2 months. Then, my payment was one day late. It was Memorial Day weekend of last year and I didn’t plan accordingly and get the payment to the post office in time. They dropped me.

And, they did so retroactively. So, one of the CT scans I had been given to monitor potential cancer reoccurrence was re-billed to me (that’s how I found out I was cancelled). I called and wrote to the Cobra administrator to ask that they reconsider and reinstate me. I was denied. Then, because of the downturn in the economy and my industry, I have been unable to find a new job. I have tried to find a private insurer but have been turned down due to my pre-existing condition (cancer). So, I find myself with no job, no income and no medical insurance.

How has not having health insurance impacted your life?

It is a great source of stress for me. I am in a situation now that, if I did have a cancer reoccurrence, I would be put in a position to take the rest of the money out of my savings. Also, I have not been to a doctor since. There are a few minor things that I’m concerned about with my health.

But, I don’t go to the doctor because I can’t afford it. So, I am not getting the preventative care that I should get and always have until now.

How do you obtain routine care?

I don’t.

What have you done/will you do in the case of an emergency?

I did have to go to the emergency hospital 3 weeks ago. I was there for 2 hours and received a bill for $3000. I have had to work out a payment plan with the hospital. Otherwise, I would not be able to pay it at all.

What do you want people to know about life without health insurance?

It’s scary. You feel helpless and just hope that your luck will hold out.

It’s not fair. I have worked hard all my life, paid my bills and took care of myself. And, now I feel pitiful and embarrassed to be in this situation.

What do you want the government to know about life without health insurance?

I feel estranged. I don’t feel like a valued citizen anymore. I am afraid for my health and my financial security. That is not the way I expected to feel at this point in my life after so many years of productivity and contribution.

For more on healthcare reform, tune in to PBS on Thursday, September 24th at 9pm for a 90-minute report. Tavis Smiley, NOW on PBS and Nightly Business Report are collaborating to produce the in-depth special called “PBS Special Report on Healthcare Reform.”

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 18th, 2009, by Staff

If you are one of the 46 million Americans without health insurance, share your story with us. To be part of our “Faces of the Uninsured” project, please e-mail the following to facesofuninsured@gmail.com:

  1. A photo of yourself.*
  2. Name
  3. Age
  4. City of residence
  5. Reason that you are uninsured.

*By submitting your photo you are granting us permission to use it on PBS.org and saying that you have the rights to do so. We can give photo credit if you supply us with the name of the person who took it. Please send as large a file as possible.

For more on healthcare reform, tune in to PBS on Thursday, September 24th at 9pm for a 90-minute report. Tavis Smiley, NOW on PBS and Nightly Business Report are collaborating to produce the in-depth special called “PBS Special Report on Healthcare Reform.”

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 11th, 2009, by ROSA CLEMENTE

Over the Labor Day weekend, Van Jones, a member of the hip-hop generation and special advisor for green jobs at the White House Council for Environmental Quality, tendered his resignation, and it was accepted by the Obama administration. I will be the first to say that I never found Van Jones to be a radical, a Black Nationalist or a communist as Fox News suggested.

Although I appreciate his book The Green Collar Economy, I never believed that a green economy would save working people. I felt that the book gave solutions on how to save the current capitalist system. And fundamentally that presents a problem, as many in this country are suffering because of capitalism and its failures.

No matter my political differences with Jones, I will never discount his work, energy, community organizing skills and progressive tendencies, which have reconnected urban youth with Mother Earth and have inspired many in my generation to create space in the predominately white liberal “green” movement.

And as the former Green Party vice-presidential candidate who campaigned against the Obama administration, I am not surprised that Jones turned out to be a high-profile casualty of an administration that started at the center and continues to move to the right.

But what has surprised me is that people are not calling out the Obama administration for its role in the matter. Do not be fooled. There is no doubt that the Obama administration knew about Jones’ so-called “radical” past. I am not willing to believe that they never did a Google search on Jones or looked at his past comments, speeches or actions.

By accepting Jones’ resignation, the Obama administration essentially gave a victory to the very racist Glenn Beck and the most vile “news” station in modern time. By accepting Jones’ resignation, they have put a target on all of us who would be deemed “activists” or “radicals.” Accepting Jones’ resignation is a slap in the face to all of us.

So for those who voted for Obama, when will you let him know that you will not accept Van Jones as a casualty of an administration capitulating to the right?

And for those who are still not convinced, Dead Prez said it best:

“Everywhere we go, everyday on TV, they be talking about who you gonna vote for,
Got a Black man running but I wonder if he get in, who he gonna open up the door for
I don’t want to discourage my folks I believe in hope I just want us to want more
Politics is a game, how they keep us contained, there’s gotta be more that we can hope for
democrats and republicans just two sides of the same coin, either way it’s still white power, it’s the same system just changed form,
You wanna vote, please do, cast your ballot, let your voice be heard
But what I do wanna say is after the election you’ll see, mark my word
It’s Politricks time again.”

Where do we go from here?

First, I caution people, do not make Jones into a martyr. I am urging people to go back to the grassroots, go back to the local community to organize and support progressives and third-party candidates in local elections.

Next, we need to support our progressive media. Malkia Cyril, the Executive Director of The Center for Media Justice says, “We need to create an echo chamber of progressive media to counter the echo created by the right.”

And finally, we need to learn from this experience. The Van Jones takedown has revealed our own frustrations and inability to build and sustain a powerful multi-faceted, multi-racial movement.

I hope that people take one lesson that I learned from Van Jones’ book: Stop fighting against something and start fighting for something.

Maybe our fighting for something began Labor Day Weekend. If that is the case, we should all thank Van Jones for leaving the manicured green lawns of the White House.

Rosa Alicia Clemente is a community organizer, hip-hop activist, journalist and the Green Party 2008 Vice-Presidential candidate. Rosa resides with her husband and daughter in the South Bronx and is currently on her speaking tour, “It’s Bigger than Black and White,” and is writing her first book, When a Puerto Rican Woman Ran for Vice-President and Nobody Knew Her Name. She can be reached at clementerosa@gmail.com

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 9th, 2009, by Staff

President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress Wednesday night in an attempt to create movement on the healthcare overhaul.

He laid out the details of his plan for healthcare and did not back down on the public option.

Rep. Charles Boustany, Jr. delivered the Republican rebuttal.

And what do you have to say? Share your thoughts with us.

Also see full text of the speech here and a video excerpt below.

And, for more on healthcare reform, tune in to PBS on Thursday, September 24th at 9pm ET for a 90-minute report. NOW on PBS, Tavis Smiley and The Nightly Business Report are collaborating to produce the in-depth special called “PBS Special Report on Healthcare Reform.”

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 4th, 2009, by Staff
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The Associated Press released a photo Friday of Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard, moments after he was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on Aug. 14, in Afghanistan. Bernard later died from his wounds.

Some newspapers published the photo with the accompanying AP story, but the Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, The New York Times and The Washington Post did not include the photo with the story.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called the AP’s decision “appalling.”

But the AP defends its decision, saying that “journalists document world events every day. Afghanistan is no exception. We feel it is our journalistic duty to show the reality of the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is.”

What do you think?

Was the AP wrong to publish the photo of a dying soldier? Was the news agency being insensitive to the soldier’s family?

Or does Secretary Gates have it wrong? Do the American people need to see the harsh realities of war? Are American papers too sanitized?

Share your thoughts.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
August 26th, 2009, by Staff

Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy lost his battle with brain cancer Tuesday. His Senate career spanned nearly 50 years, and he is credited with continuing a legacy begun by his brothers John and Robert.

The outpouring of messages from both Republicans and Democrats speaks to Kennedy’s negotiating skills and knack for bipartisan coalition-building—expertise that Republican Sen. John McCain said are missing on the current healthcare overhaul.

Watch Vice President Joe Biden’s heartfelt words about his friend and colleague, and share your thoughts on Kennedy’s life and legacy.

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