Faces of American Healthcare

Healthcare and skateboarding, this was made for our blog. Watch it and learn about greed in the healthcare industry, and also how MS took out a great skater. (Props to Lowcard for the original post.)

"Big Insurance: Sick of It": SF Protesters Rush Anthem Blue Cross Office

This whole video was shot with my iPhone. I edited in some text and a few photos I shot as well.

Yesterday during my lunch break I ventured across the street to participate in a rally called “Big Insurance: Sick of It.” I’m pretty bad at estimating crowds, but if you know San Francisco, the protesters took up a good thick city block and then some. I could barely elbow my way through the crowd (a short persons’ claustrophobic nightmare), which was filled with giant signs, megaphones, and camera crews. I had my iPhone on me and decided to take some pics and video. I put together this video montage of the events which included a group of people bum-rushing the Anthem Blue Cross offices above the protest. I tagged along (although I think it was suppose to be only “media”)… Obviously, Angela Braly, CEO of Wellpoint, Blue Cross, the intended recipient of the “List of Demands,” never actually surfaced, but it was a valiant effort on everyone’s part. These protests took place across the country, and I hope they made a big dent in the fight against giant Health Industry corporations.

I believe the protests were put on by Health Care for America Now, and possibly MoveOn.org (they both had plenty of pamphlets to hand out).

In the video you’ll see Billionaires for Wealthcare singing one of their songs. You can find the lyrics to that song here [you'll need to scroll down to the bottom of that page].

I also met some nice people from change.org and sfnewsfeed.us.

Top Ten Reasons to Support a Public Option

I’ve become pretty political lately when it comes to Health Care Reform and the Public Option (you know my whole ‘personal story‘ and all). So much so, that I started a Facebook page for like-minded people.
Anyhoo, one thing I’ve found (other than realizing why so many people don’t get political: angry friends= not fun) is that a lot of people don’t see the benefit to a Public Option. They think it will create higher taxes, that it will become “government run”, and so on. So, I’ve put together my top ten reasons why we should have a Public Option. I’ve even included references/links. They might not be in the order you would put them in, but hey, we can’t agree on everything.

Quick Edit: I’d like to add a quote from The Nation’s article: What Obama Should Be Saying About a Public Option:

“Obama can still get a public option. But he needs to understand that the public option is, itself, a compromise. It falls short of the “Medicare for All” model favored by serious reformers. As such, the president cannot compromise the compromise.”

Top Ten Reasons to Support a Public Option

10. We Love Other Public Options
Imagine what it would be like if we didn’t have these Public Options. If my house is burning down, I really don’t want to call 911 and have them make sure my fire station takes my HMO.

9. People Should Come Before Profits
The Health Industry spends over 6.2 million lobbying against the Public Option, and is known for rescinding insurance coverage of patients in order to get higher bonuses. That says a lot about where the private industry interests go when it comes to your health and wellbeing. Your health should not be someone else’s bottom line.

8. Help the Backbone of Our Economy
A Public Option would help small businesses by saving them thousands of dollars. It would also help contractors and freelancers, college students transitioning into the workplace, and those who recently lost their jobs (can anyone actually afford COBRA?).

7. It’s American!
Having as many choices as possible as well as creating competition is “American,” isn’t it? Well, 76% of Americans are asking for a choice between a public and private option. And to those who say it’s unfair competition, I hate to break it to you, but public universities have not killed private universities. Bring on the choices, bring on the competition!

6. Put the Breaks on Special Interests
A democratic government is supposed to be run “by the people, FOR the people”. Not “by the rich, for the private interests”. Get it together, Max Baucus. When you receive over 2 million from the health industry, it’s not hard to see why you’re on their side. Except you work for us—the public.

5. Put Our Money Where Our Families Are
This is NOT the issue to wave the “fiscally conservative” flag. Why can we spend near trillions of dollars on wars, but not even close to that on creating healthy American people? PLUS, Obama even says he won’t sign a bill that adds to our deficit! AND just because you think you’re being economically mindful (looking past the odd moment to be so), doesn’t mean that in the long run you’re actually making a fiscally conservative judgment (you’ll see at #2)

4. Longer, Healthier American Lives
The United States has a life expectancy below that of 41 other nations, and over 45,000 Americans die each year from lack of Health Insurance. A Public Option would give these people a fighting chance that would dramatically improve our ranking.

3. Move Into the 21st Century
Universal health care is available in all industrialized countries except ours. At the very LEAST we should have a Public Option!

2. Save our Economy
The majority of Americans who filed for bankruptcies in 2007 were due to medical costs… and of those people, 80% had Health Insurance. A Public Option will help bring down bankruptcies by lowering costs, creating competition, and in the long run save all Americans money (we won’t be paying for all those bankruptcies!).

And the Number 1 reason to support a Public Option…

1. It’s the Right Thing To Do
It’s a moral issue. We, as humans, should not decide who does or does not get help when they need it. Every person deserves health care. Apologies to those who are not Christian, but to quote Susan Brooks’ article: “Jesus was not about debating whether we should or should not heal the sick; Jesus went ahead and delivered health care directly to people who didn’t have any health care.”

(The Lord said) “’For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. ‘ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. ‘” (Matthew 25:42-45 NIV)

If you’re on the same page as me… come join No Compromise! Americans for the Public Option.

No Compromise! Americans for the Public Option

Barack Obama Responds to My Open Letter

Remember my Open Letter to Barack Obama? Well, he wrote me back. Seriously!
And although it’s a totally canned email (doesn’t the “Dear Friend” give it away?), and I’m sure thousands of other people receive the same one, I thought I’d share.

Dear Friend:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I have heard from countless Americans struggling to afford health insurance and health professionals striving to provide care. I appreciate your perspective.

There is broad consensus among the American people on the need for affordable, high-quality health care. The rising cost of health care is the most pressing financial challenge for families and for our Nation, and controlling this cost is essential to bringing down the Federal deficits we inherited. We must end unfair insurance practices that leave millions of Americans without coverage, denying them access to care, and exposing them to extraordinary burdens. And we should ensure that all small business employees have access to affordable, high-quality health plans so that we can make our economy–and our small businesses- -more competitive. Now is the time to move forward, and I am working to get health insurance reform done this year.

Since I took office, we have done more to improve health care than we have in the previous decade. In February, I signed H.R. 2 to provide coverage for millions of children through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and I signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to make key investments in computerized medical records and preventive services.

Still, more must be done to lower costs, expand coverage, and improve the quality of health care. My 2010 Budget makes a major down payment on health insurance reform by implementing efficiencies in government health care spending while improving the quality of care. To help fulfill the debt we owe to our service men and women, it includes the largest proposed single-year increase in veterans funding in 30 years. It expands health care coverage to an additional 500,000 veterans by 2013, implements technology that eases the transition from military care to veterans’ care, and enhances screening and treatment services for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Looking forward, there are tough choices to be made, and I will seek to bring employers and workers, health care providers and patients, and Democrats and Republicans together to create a system that delivers better care and puts the Nation on a sustainable, long-term fiscal path. To learn more about my agenda or to share a personal story, please join me online at: www.healthreform.gov. For further information on health care and assistance that may be available to you, you may call 1-800-FEDINFO or visit: www.usa.gov.

I share the sense of urgency that millions of Americans have voiced. I watched as my ailing mother struggled with stacks of insurance forms in the last moments of her life. This is not who we are as a Nation; together, we will fix it.


Barack Obama

To be a part of our agenda for change, join us at www.WhiteHouse.gov

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama Before His Speech on Health Care Reform

Dear President Obama,

Please do not compromise the Public Option. I beg you, do not let this one go. You’ve played the bi-partisan game since you took office. With valiant effort you’ve moved your pieces, trying to win over the country to make both red and blue happy. With friends on both sides of the isle, I thought this is good; I had ‘the hope’ you could do it. However, Mr. President, you need to stop playing the game of Risk when others are clearly playing Battleship.

Do not compromise the Public Option.

  • I don’t ask you this because you’ve already given up single-payer… even though Universal health care is available in all industrialized countries except ours.
  • I don’t ask you because the Health Industry spends over 6.2 million lobbying against the Public Option, but won’t spend $28,000 to pay a patients medical bills (that is, until the state makes them).
  • I’m not asking you because the majority of Americans who filed for bankruptcies in 2007 were due to medical costs… and of those people, 80% had Health Insurance. It’s true.
  • I’m not asking because I’m worried that those crafting the reform *might* not really have our best interests at heart (ahem, Max Baucus (D-MT)… ahem, $2,880,631 in campaign contributions from the health care industry)
  • It’s not because a Public Option would help small businesses by saving them thousands of dollars.
  • I’m not asking because our grandparents love their Medicare, and maybe everyone should have the chance to opt-in to such a plan.
  • I don’t ask because even though we can spend near trillions of dollars on wars, somehow we can’t stomach spending that on caring for American lives.
  • I don’t ask because 76% of Americans are asking for a choice between a public and private option.
  • I’m not asking because we have a life expectancy below that of 41 other nations.
  • I don’t ask you because we’ve been waiting for Health Care Reform since 1969 (and some might say even longer).
  • And… I’m not asking because it would be a beautiful and noble way to honor the late Senator Ted Kennedy, by creating this plan in his name.

I’m asking you, Mr. President, for a simple, and yes, selfish reason.

I still owe my parents $12,000 dollars. And although they’ll never try and collect on this bill, my heart hurts when I think that my situation is not only common, but terribly benign when compared to thousands of Americans. My parents came to my rescue when I couldn’t afford my surgery, but others are not as lucky as me. This should not happen in America, the greatest country in the world.

If we are to truly believe in “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” we must ensure that all Americans- black, white, rich, poor, ivy league, or public school- ALL AMERICANS, can achieve their dreams without the fear of bankruptcy or long term suffering.

Allowing for a Public Option is the ONLY WAY.

Firemen defend our houses. Policemen protect our streets. Teachers educate our next generation. Doctors save our lives.
For all of these to not be public services… it will be a shame.

Mr. President, please do not compromise the Public Option.

Abby Berendt

Young People for Health Care Reform

I know the opinions on Health Care Reform are wide spread. So, before I jump into my post, I want to quote Bill Moyers from his interview on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher this Friday, August 28th, 2009. I hope we can all agree that money should “not decide who lives and who dies.”

“I find it hard to understand why this country has not embraced this notion of Health Care as a common human need to which everyone should have access of, regardless of economic resources. … we are the only western democracy that has not embraced Universal Health Care as a means of social justice. Our Health Care system is run by the drug industry, the health insurance industry and Wall Street– which means a relative handful of unaccountable executives and anonymous investors whose primary interest is in increasing the value of the company share and raising profits. That’s their interest. Now that’s a good business model, because it’s made a lot of money for the people who run those industries (Wall Street, drugs, and health insurance). But it’s not the way we should decide who lives and who dies, and who suffers and who gets well… that’s just not the way.”
~Bill Moyers

(For now, you can watch the show here, here, and here and Glen Greenwald wrote a great article on it)

On Wednesday, August 26th, I spoke at a Press Conference in the Capitol Building, in Washington D.C. Along with Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and speakers from Rock the Vote, US Students Association, and YouthBuild USA, we addressed how Health Care Reform is vital to young Americans. How did I end up speaking with these people? I don’t work or volunteer for any Health Care advocacy group… It could be the most random story of my life.

On Sunday (one week ago from yesterday), my friend Dave DeLuca was talking to his friend Sujatha Jahagirdar. Sujatha works for CALPIRG and was looking for a young person (ideally 26 or younger) who had issues with our current health care system. Dave passed along my story and my phone number. Sujatha and I spoke that night, and although I was a little past their ideal age, they decided to fly me to DC to share my story to help “put a face on the health care debate.”

On Monday, they bought me a ticket. On Tuesday, I flew to D.C. I surprised my sister by just showing up at dinner (where she immediately started screaming and jumping up and down). That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was running through what I was going to say over and over again.

Wednesday morning finally rolls around, and with 3 hours of sleep under my belt, my sister and I head out to the USPIRG office near the Capitol. I meet with Gary Kalman, the U.S. PRIG D.C. Office Director, who runs over what will be happening through out the day. Gary has me deliver my speech to him, and I’m worried he’s going to want me to change things here and there. My nervousness fades as he says, “if you do it half as good as that, you’re going to do great.”

We walk to The Capitol where I meet Tom Monatos, Assistant to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. He gives me (and my sister!) and the other three speakers a quick tour of Pelosi’s office, including the “best view in D.C” (if you saw my tweet).

View from Nancy Pelosi’s office.

Tom keeps coming into the waiting room saying “the New York Times is here! CNN is here!” and I just keep taking deep breaths to stop myself from vomiting. I haven’t spoken in public since… well, probably since I played Hope Harcourt in my senior high school’s play of Anything Goes.

Heather & I sneaking a picture in Pelosi’s office.

Tom (and his team of people) lead us into the press conference (room H-122, The Speakers Dining Room). It’s filled with video cameras, still photogs, and tons of journalists with pens and your typical reporter pads of paper. My sister gets a seat in the third row.

Van Hollen introduces everyone, and after Thomas Bates from Rock the Vote speaks, I go up and share my story. I am shaking; and although part of it’s from nervousness, some is just because my story is actually quite sad. I almost start to cry at one point. But I get through it, and finish with a “thank you for having me.”

I needed a stool! Can you say short much?

I looked at my sister who gives me a teary-eyed thumbs up. After the press conference, I am ushered into another room for a phone conference for newspapers around the country. We do the same thing, except this time I read my speech instead of saying it from the top of my head.

Thomas Bates, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Abby Berendt Lavoi

Afterwards, there is a quick photo shoot with myself, Rep. Van Hollen, and Thomas all standing awkwardly in front of a portrait of Lincoln. We say our goodbyes, and Tom gives my sister and me a nice tour of the Capitol (complete with a sneak look into the senate chambers). He bids us farewell, my sister and I eat Subway for lunch, and I head over to The White House for a briefing on Health Care and Young People.

Overall, a whirlwind experience– one that I will never forget. My h
ope is that people who hear my story will understand that Health Care Reform is necessary. Young people, old people, it affects us all. Obviously, those who aren’t insured need some options (most people really do want insurance but can’t afford the high cost), but even those who are insured need help. Premiums, co-payments, and overall bills are sky high– so much so that sometimes having insurance doesn’t matter (if you still can’t afford to pay these costs).

Many people are saying that Obama’s young supporters have been silent on this issue; and although I don’t know anyone who wants to get yelled at by grandpa at a townhall meeting, I do know many people who support reform. It’s a tough issue (who has time to read the 1,000 page document?), and with lies, misinformation, and insurance companies spending millions in advertising, it’s hard to sift through and focus on reality. But this debate has been going on for decades, and it’s time we fix the system before it’s too late.

Kim Geiger from the LA Times wrote about my story, the press conference, and how Health Care Reform affects young people.
The extended version ran in the Chicago Tribune.
The shortened version ran in the LA Times.

Dave Getzschman / For The Times / August 27, 2009