October 29, 2009

From Election Day to "Labor Day"

Labor Day, the new film by Oscar nominee and our colleague Glenn Silber, opens tomorrow (October 30) in NYC & Chicago. Watch how one union's mobilization and thousands of activists' ensured the Democratic victory in the 2008 Presidential campaign.

But the film is only in selected theaters for one week only....
so make sure to mark your calendars!

October 28, 2009

How many lives are enough?

Within minutes after MSNBC.com published our film, Denied, about Sheila Wessenberg, my phone rang with a call from abroad. It was a frustrated American who has found himself exiled from his own country because his child got sick. He is a health care refugee, an American who now lives in Japan where his son, who is on life support, is able to receive all the care he needs without bankrupting his family. It was a complete contradiction to his experience stateside. After his two-month-old son suffered a series of seizures and was put in an induced coma to quell the seizures, the father was told to take his infant home and allow him to die. The family refused, and has since traveled the globe seeking experimental treatments and a sympathetic health care system. Their son is now 12.

"America has a system where the elites are profiting but they deny children a chance to live healthy," he said to me. He then recounted a conversation he had with a Japanese colleague who asked 'how can America expect anyone in the world to trust what it says when its own children can't trust it to take care of them?'

Please explain to me how any politician debating health care reform in Congress can choose to deny citizens access to health care with a clear conscience? And how can anyone who ostensibly represents the voice of the people justify filibustering as an acceptable course of action?

How many Sheila Wessenbergs have to die before we get genuine health care reform?

Our short film, Denied, on the Daily Kos

Yesterday MSNBC ran our short film Denied on the front page of their web site. Today the responses are pouring in.

The Daily Kos writer Sven Eberlein (citisven) weighed in with his thoughts on both the film and the current health care debate.

Raising Women's Voices is as outraged as we are at the injustice done to Sheila and her family and want you to share your thoughts as well.

Within minutes of the film being posted on MSNBC, Julie received a call from a father in Japan, an American forced to leave the country to save his newborn son's life after a series of medical horror stories. Look for a future post from Julie for a more in-depth examination of his case.

Sheila's story is touching people in many different ways, all across the globe. If you have a story of your own to share, send us an email or leave it in the comments.

October 27, 2009

TEM & msnbc.com provide a "Dose of Reality"

Today Talking Eyes Media published a video on msnbc.com about a woman with breast cancer who struggled to survive without health insurance. Sheila Wessenberg and her family went from living a middle-class life with health insurance to joining the 47 million uninsured Americans. Sheila's story could happen to anyone and shows the critical need to both promote breast cancer awareness and to fix America's health care system.

Talking Eyes Media urges you to watch this one woman's struggle to survive breast cancer....and her even bigger battle to survive without health insurance.

Watch: When Death is the Only Way Out of Medical Debt

October 26, 2009

News from Paris! Kashi wins Prix Pictet 2009 Commission Prize!

On Thursday, October 22, Kofi Annan (former Secretary General of the U.N. and Honorary President of the Prix Pictet) awarded this year's Prix Pictet Award to British-based photographer Nadav Kander and the 2009 Commission to our very own Ed Kashi!

The Prix Pictet is an annual search for photographs that communicate powerful messages of global environmental significance under a broad theme. The theme for this year's prize was "Earth," and Ed's portfolio for Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta was honored with being one of the 12 talented photographers under consideration for the 2009 Prix Pictet Award.

Ivan Pictet, Senior Managing Partner of Pictet & Cie said, "On behalf of the Partners of Pictet; I am delighted to announce that we have selected Ed Kashi as the photographer to fulfill Pictet's annual commission related to our charitable activities, this year in Madagascar, a country with a remarkable ecological heritage under threat and one of the poorest countries on earth."

Each year Pictet & Cie supports the work of a charity whose work reflects the theme of the prize; for 2009, Pictet & Cie will support Azafady, a UK-based charity and Malagasy-registered NGO. Ed Kashi has been commissioned to visit Madagascar with Azafady in order to produce a series of photographs that will highlight the issues of land degradation and desertification. The commission will also result in a traveling exhibition and printed catalogue.

The prize is also complemented by the Prix Pictet 2009 publication, Earth. Published by teNeues, Earth includes the work of the 12 shortlisted artists and others nominated for the 2009 prize. The full portfolios of each shortlisted artist will be shown at the Passage de Retz gallery in Paris from October 23 to November 24. The Prix Pictet will then tour to other international venues from late 2009 to early 2010.

Click on the following links to learn more about Prix Pictet and the Madagascar Commission:

Prix Pictet 2009 - Press Release

Prix Pixtet 2009 Commission

Financial Times article on Prix Pictet

October 20, 2009

October 8, 2009

And the Countdown Begins

The Senate Finance Committee's health reform bill seems to have been resuscitated with the announcement by the Congressional Budget Office yesterday that the cost of "America's Healthy Future Act," will amount to $829 billion over ten years. The bill even extends an increase in the amounts paid for ambulance services from December, 2009 until January, 2012. This may satisfy some of the EMS professionals we are working with to develop a public education and outreach strategy for FIRESTORM. I'll share more about this work soon.

Considering $2 trillion is currently spent on health care annually, and $810 billion is reportedly wasted in the system annually, $829 billion (over 10 years) seems like a paltry sum and should not be a stumbling block to passage. There are some in the Senate, however, who may be willing to try. Jonathan Cohn's blog post about Mitch McConnell's aversion to getting any legislation through gave me a chuckle, but alas, this really is no laughing matter, is it? Let's hope the Republicans seize this opportunity to rise above the politics and make health care accessible to millions more Americans.

From the NY Times: "In its analysis of the Senate Finance Committee bill, the budget office said a proposed expansion of Medicaid would add $345 billion to federal spending over the next 10 years. State Medicaid spending would rise by $33 billion, as 14 million people would be added to the Medicaid rolls. The other big federal cost would be subsidies totaling $461 billion over 10 years, to help low- and middle-income people buy insurance."

The measure is hardly ideal as it will provide insurance coverage for about 29 million of the 46 million uninsured OVER 10 YEARS.

From the CBO Director's blog: "By 2019, CBO and JCT estimate, the number of nonelderly people who are uninsured would be reduced by about 29 million, leaving about 25 million nonelderly residents uninsured (about one-third of whom would be unauthorized immigrants). Under the proposal, the share of legal nonelderly residents with insurance coverage would rise from about 83 percent currently to about 94 percent."

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill next Tuesday, October 13.

October 1, 2009


As I read (with profound disappointment) reports that the Senate voted down two amendments that would have added a public option to the Senate Finance Committee’s health reform bill, I was reminded of this story published in The New York Daily News on Monday. Dr. Frank Huyler wrote the story and he recounts treating a woman in his emergency room who had waited 11 hours to be seen. The woman suffered from a few chronic illnesses, which she had been managing with a private doctor before she was layed off and lost her insurance. Now uninsured, her doctor dropped her. She went to the ER complaining of chest pain and to have her prescriptions re-filled.

Dr. Huyler determined that the woman’s symptoms required a cardio work-up and admitted her and ordered routine tests. The patient was released the next day and her tests were thankfully negative. Not seeking a free ride, she duitifully met with hospital social workers to work out a payment plan. She was handed a bill...for $10,000.

In stories like this the identity of the patient is necessarily kept private. But this woman’s anonymity underscores for me the faceless and voiceless throngs of uninsured Americans who will face bankruptcy or even death because they cannot afford health insurance. Tens of millions of Americans lack insurance and their plight seems trivialized by a congress focused more on appeasing special interests than on protecting the rights of citizens. While lives hang in the balance our lawmakers are determined to protect the integrity of the private insurance industry. Yes, a public option, which is essential, may eventually sink private insurers. What’s so vexing is that our elected officials are unwilling to face down greedy corporate interests and face up to their responsibility as guardians of the public interest.

Interesting Factoids:

63% of physicians support public and private options (NPR)

More people believe in UFOs (34%)(AP Poll) than oppose a public option (26%) (NY Times)

Take Action

If you're in New York tomorrow - appear as an extra in a MoveOn ad starring Heather Graham! The ad will pit the actress against lazy Big insurance companies and the Public Option in a track meet race. Friday, October 2, 12pm-2pm

Location: The Red Hook Running Track at Red Hook Recreation Area. Meet at the corner of Hicks and Bay Street at noon sharp.


Are your elected officials on these committees? Call, fax or email them with your thoughts.