STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 24th, 2009, by Staff

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.

 

Name: Karen Gadbois

Age: 54

City of residence: New Orleans

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

The cost of health insurance would be half my salary.

 

Name: Mary Sias

Age: 49

City of residence: Houston, Texas

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

I am uninsured because I lost my job and could not afford the COBRA or any other insurance due to preexisting conditions. I am a 18.5 year survivor of Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I have also survived cancer, been blind twice, not counting the walking pneumonia with bronchitis. It is tough, not only to find a job, but especially one that I can get affordable insurance. I need help. I need medical tests that are costly, but necessary. I pray that something will be done about the insurance situation in America.

 

Name: Nicole Maron

Age: 37

City of residence: San Francisco, CA

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

I’m a freelance web designer, so I have no access to group insurance. I have mild asthma, a previous knee surgery, and am overweight due to inactivity during the … year I had to wait to be able to afford the knee surgery. Now, all of those count as pre-existing conditions, and because I am at risk for other health problems due to my weight, I am uninsurable.

There is one state plan I can join, but it has such a low lifetime payout limit – $75,000, that if anything happens to me I’ll go bankrupt … So I pay what I have to out-of-pocket. I avoid the doctor as much as possible, because they can never tell me how much their tests will cost, and I can’t afford to get surprise bills for thousands of dollars. I sprained an ankle and spent $1000 for the ER visit without even getting an x-ray.

 

Name: Ely Nunez

Age: 29

City: New York City

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

Layoff in November.

A million stories will be told along with mine. Perhaps my voice will become mute by the complaints, the tragedies, the circumstances, the stories, and the cruel reality of the whole. I sat for a few minutes before deciding to participate in this initiative. And not because I don’t believe in the cause, but because I’m exhausted by the excuses of my nation and my generation.

Millions feel repulsed when they hear that millions of Americans do not have health insurance but they go back to their life, because in the end it doesn’t affect them. I was once that gal – it didn’t affect me. I did the right things – I swear I did. I did everything I was supposed to do to avoid my situation today. I was not supposed to fall into the percentage of the uninsured but I did. Here I am, looking at America from a perception of lack and not of opportunity.

Yes, I did the right things! I graduated college, got a decent job, saved money for a rainy day, invested 10% and later 7% in my 401K, filed my taxes, and worked extra hard to secure my job. I worked in HR for five years within the book publishing industry. I wasn’t surprise when my fabulous boss visited my office on a Friday afternoon and told me “Liz, I’m sorry. We’re letting you go” as he handed me a severance package and tried to get me to talk about my state of mind. I saw the jobs being placed on hold and the decrease of HR projects. I wasn’t as much surprised as I was concerned. I had just paid an estimate of $1000 in the last few months with Health Insurance. I didn’t have to look at the severance package to know that I could not afford COBRA. I had once been responsible for putting together the severance packages … I knew employees couldn’t afford it. I knew I couldn’t either. Not even if they were giving it to me for $250 a month because unemployment was not covering my full rent, how could it possibly cover my health insurance? How?

For a healthy 29-year-old, not having health insurance is fine. For me it was fine too. I would find a job and get health insurance again – piece of cake, I told myself. Almost a year later, I have no job and no health insurance. I went from having to go to the doctor every month to not going at all. I went from complaining to praying. I went from knowing to understanding. I’m not your typical 29. I have a common condition that affects many women …

You ask, how did I become uninsured and why am I still uninsured? I thought I lived in a fair country. You ask, how am I feeling today? I don’t know. I haven’t been to a doctor in almost a year and I am terrified to go because I fear the results!

 

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 22nd, 2009, by ADAM CLAYTON POWELL III

This excerpt is from a post first published at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. Powell is blogging while in South Africa.

GRAHAMSTOWN, South Africa – Here in South Africa, the downfall of apartheid, the first multi-racial election in 1993 and the victory at the ballot box of the formerly outlawed African National Congress remains a source of considerable pride and celebration. And there is also an examination of the public diplomacy tools used by the ANC – especially music, arts and culture – as key elements in the ANC’s victory over the apartheid government, which possessed far more “hard power.”

An article, “Remix of struggle songs hits a dissonant crescendo,” published here recently describes many of these tools; particularly music, much of it derived from the music of the church. This will be familiar to Americans familiar with “We Shall Overcome” and other anthems of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. Since the election of the ANC in 1994, the South African government has developed a strong public diplomacy program, using music and culture to project the country’s identity to the world.

However, this article argues that the ANC in its role as ruling party may not be fully utilizing its musical and cultural tradition inside the country. Again, there may be parallels to the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and with other movements in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. But that is another blog post . . .

Adam Clayton Powell III is USC’s vice provost for Globalization. He is also a university fellow at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. Powell recently published a book entitled Reinventing Local News: Connecting with Communities Using New Technologies (Figueroa Press, 2006). He has also written for a number of publications, including The New York Times, Wired Magazine and Online Journalism Review.

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 20th, 2009, by Staff

46 million Americans do not have health insurance. They have jobs, pay taxes, send their children to daycare, keep a roof over their heads and live in fear that a medical disaster is just around the corner.

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.

Madera Glenn, 60

“I feel pitiful and embarrassed to be in this situation.”

Courtney J. Hixon, 26

“Things cannot stay the same.”

Lindsey “Bing” Perrine, 26

“We need to stand together and fight for a change.”

Summer Pendle, 32

“Life without health insurance is terrifying.”

Carl Albert, 32

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

Christa Vasquez, 31

“I have a pre-existing condition and nobody will approve me.”

Alaina Ronewicz, 23

“Everyone should have access to food, clean drinking water, and affordable health insurance.”

 

See more faces of the uninsured.

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.”

QUICK FACTS

“Adults make up more than their share of the uninsured because they are less likely than children to be eligible for Medicaid — especially young adults whose low incomes make it more difficult to afford coverage.”
SOURCE: Kaiser Family Foundation

“The United States spent approximately $2.2 trillion on health care in 2007, or $7,421 per person–nearly twice the average of other developed nations. Americans spend more on health care than on housing or food.”
SOURCE: Congressional Budget Office

“The fraction of Americans without insurance varies substantially across ages, with the highest rates among young adults and the lowest rates among the elderly, virtually all of whom are covered by Medicare.”
SOURCE: Council of Economic Advisors

“More than eight in ten of the uninsured are in working families–about 70% are from families with one or more full-time workers and 12% are from families with part-time workers.”
SOURCE: Kaiser Family Foundation

STAFF & GUEST BLOG
September 20th, 2009, by Staff
faceslg_christavasquez

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: 31

City of residence: Anaheim, CA

How long have you been uninsured? Since January 1, 2009

What is the reason that you are uninsured?

As of January 1st 2009, our company stopped paying 60% of our health insurance and we became responsible for 100% of our premiums. My cost went from $150.00 per month to $400.00 and I could no longer afford it. It just wasn’t in my budget to pay the extra $250.00 and pay $500.00 per month to put my 4-year-old daughter, Maria, through Pre-Kindergarten. As a single mother I can only do so much, and her education became the priority. I can’t get insurance outside of work because I have a pre-existing condition and nobody will approve me. I tried many times.

How has not having health insurance impacted your life?

It makes me nervous every time we get sick or Maria hurts herself. I always wonder if I am a day away from an emergency that would leave me drowning in medical bills. I never used to worry about things like that, but now I worry all of the time.

How do you obtain routine care?

We are lucky enough to have a free clinic not too far from here that offers free care for children under 5 with no questions asked, so she is taken care of for now. I have only been able to get OB/GYN care from Planned Parenthood with a small donation, but if I get sick I will have to pay out-of-pocket for a doctor’s visit and prescriptions …

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

I don’t know. I am really worried about that. If it is my daughter I will take her to the hospital right away … Hopefully I can set up an affordable payment plan for the bill.

When it comes to me, I may think twice … before I go to the hospital, which isn’t the best thing to do. But I can’t handle the extra bill.

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

I want them to know that even if you are educated and have two college degrees from UC Berkeley, like myself, this can still happen to you. I make more than $20.00 per hour and still can’t afford it because the cost is just too high.

I also want people to know that it is a scary and uncomfortable life. Every day I feel like I am walking on eggshells hoping and praying neither of us gets hurt because it would devastate us.

We can even get turned away if we have no insurance. That is an awful feeling. That is my biggest fear – getting thrown out of a hospital when they find out I have no coverage, instead of getting treatment.

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

I want them to know that it should be a crime to allow people, especially 4-year-old little girls, to exist in this country without health insurance. This nation can donate money to other countries in need, but they won’t use our tax dollars to make sure that every hard-working, tax-paying citizen is insured?

It should be a right not a privilege and I hope that this is what happens by the end of the year, thanks to a president who actually cares about us. I want them to think that a right to health coverage is the same as a right to a free public school education for my child and realize that you cannot get a good education without good health.

(Photo credit: Lana Gornostaeva)

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
faceslg_carlalbert

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
faceslg_summerpendle

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
faceslg_lindseybingperrine

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
faceslg_courtneyhixon

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
faceslg_maderaglenn

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.”

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