Representing, unlike my representative, and refusing to back down

Mark Meadows exemplifies everything that’s wrong with America right now.

 

I wasn’t going to go to the Mark Meadows town hall tonight.

There’s nothing he can say to convince me he’s right, and he won’t let me speak to him.

At the last town hall I went to, questions had to be written out, and we were told they would be asked in the order they were submitted. I was the second person through the door and I submitted the second question. But mine was not among the eight questions asked.

I approached Meadows afterward to ask why that had happened, but he took one look at me when I stuck out my hand to introduce myself, said, “Oh, I know who you are,” and turned his back to me.

This man is supposed to be representing the people of Western North Carolina, but he refuses to speak to anyone who might disagree with his cruel and inhumane policies.

The first attempt to pass Trumpcare in the House of Representatives wasn’t severe enough for Meadows and his “Freedom Caucus.” It didn’t take enough away from people. It still saved a few lives, after all. It had to be made more draconian before he and his sleazy band of thugs would vote for it.

I have no use for this man, but I have decided I need to show up with my son’s picture and pray that perhaps I can move him toward compassion. At least I can be there to show that not all the voters in this district are anti-life.

This fight takes its toll. I am stressed and emotional from the fight against Trumpcare. I have spent hours and hours writing to Meadows and my senators (Burr and Tillis), only to have them ignore me or send me form letters filled with lies about the Affordable Care Act.

Now I have fellow Democrats accusing me of being a “purist” and suggesting I should leave the party because I don’t want to vote for anyone who doesn’t support universal access to quality health care. Let your kid die and then tell me it isn’t imperative that we fix this now.

I’ve had little rest lately, as the radicals on the political right try to take away what little progress we have made in access to care. I was arrested in Raleigh in May because I was trying to talk to the NC Senate leader. I was arrested in Washington in July for trying to disrupt a vote to take away health care from up to 33 million people.

I’m putting my body on the line and being vilified as a “purist” for my belief that we need access to care for every human being and speaking the truth that we need candidates who will work for us on this.

I want a living wage for minimum wage. I want to see it set at $18 an hour and tied to inflation so people don’t have to work three jobs to pay their bills. If you’re making $7.25 an hour, you need that money NOW, not in five years. Only people with unacknowledged privilege think it can wait.

The establishment Democrats are exactly what mainstream Republicans were before it was taken over by right-wing radicals. I had differences with them, but could at least respect them. Since 1980, the radicals have managed to drag the entire conversation so far to the right that what once were mainstream Democratic ideals are now considered radical.

A living wage as minimum wage? Socialist! Health care for everyone? Communist!

If you think I’m wrong, just read the 1976 Democratic Platform: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29606.

I’ve been told I’m too divisive and I should leave the Democratic Party and go Green, which I would do if there was a chance in hell they could win against all the big money now flooding the Dems’ corporatist candidates.

So as far as being “purist” and “elitist” goes, screw that. I’m the one staying with the party and trying to make a difference.

I voted for Hillary Clinton even though she said she wouldn’t work on single-payer and she wasn’t for a big increase in the minimum wage all at once. Hoe does that make me a “purist” who should be purged from the party?

So, if you’re in agreement with Mark Meadows and think we don’t need universal access to care or a living wage for people who work 40 or more hours a week, then join his party because you aren’t a Democrat.

Democrats make room for disagreement. Democrats are able to talk things out and compromise.

If you want people who will slavishly follow the party line, join the party of Mark Meadows. They love sheep.

 

 

 

 

Thank you to the GOP members who voted no

Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted no. John McCain joined them. Photo by Getty Images.

 

John McCain had a choice. He could play politics and be the darling of the right wing, or he could do the right thing.

The future of the Affordable Care Act lay in his hands.

Thing is, this likely was to be his last hurrah.

Diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, he likely has little time left to him. I was afraid the irony might be lost on him — a politician who had fought against the ACA, getting the best medical care available to anyone and able to allow tens of millions of people to keep, or lose, lifesaving access to health care.

Would be make the connection? Would he see the importance of access to care for everyone, or would he continue to play politics with people’s lives?

I was truly afraid he would stand on the wrong side of history.

He chose to be on the moral side of history.

But the beautiful story in all of this is the two Republican women who stood steadfast in the face of derision and threats.

Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska never wavered in their opposition to the theft of access to care for tens of millions of Americans.

When Murkowski was threatened with official punishment in the form of retaliatory action against her constituents, she shut down her committee’s hearings on appointments to the Department of the Interior, which was the source of the threats against her.

Sen. Capito caved. I don’t know what the enticement — or the threat — was that changed her vote, but Collins and Murkowski stood firm.

I took some heat this morning because I mentioned McCain before the women in a Facebook post. I call bullshit on that.

McCain walked the farthest in his position. Maybe it was because he wants to see the whole law repealed; maybe it was because the stark reality of his own mortality has humbled him. Whatever the reason, he has saved access to health care for tens of millions of Americans.

We knew we had the votes of Murkowski and Collins; McCain’s was the miracle vote.

And while we’re talking about heroes, Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii also has cancer — stage 4 kidney cancer. She also traveled to Washington to vote, making her every bit as heroic as McCain. The media haven’t picked up on it they way they did McCain, so we all need to thank her for her heroic effort.

I have written thank-you notes to all four senators.

But we have won just one battle. The occupant of the White House will not let this go. He has promised to attack it and kill it with a thousand cuts. We are not out of the woods.

So, let’s take some time to breathe this morning, but tomorrow we have to resume the fight. This is not over until every human being in the United States has full access to health care.

 

I can’t sit down

 

Marching to the Capitol with a cardboard “coffin” on Wednesday morning. I was arrested for chanting, “Kill the bill!” Photo by Religion News

 

I have been arrested again, this time for trying to speak truth to US senators.

On Tuesday, 32 of us went into the Senate gallery to watch the vote on opening “debate” on a bill that could rob 50 million Americans of access to health care by 2026.

I was hauled out of the gallery before the action began because someone noticed I had a 5×7 photo of my late son. I just thought he might like to see the circus. Honestly, I wanted to hold him up for John McCain and Mitch McConnell to see.

I spoke before we marched to the Capitol from a church a quarter mile away, begging senators to be truly pro-life and drop their effort to murder tens of thousands of Americans each year by taking away their access to health care. A portion of my remarks was picked up by Now This and the video is circulating on Facebook. I’ll be honest, I’m a little tickled by that. The more people who know about my son, the better. We have to put the faces of real people suffering the real consequences of these people’s actions.

I know some people just stumbled over the word, “murder.”  It seems so harsh. But there is no other word to describe an action that you know will result in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people.

So, we marched, then we stood in line for two hours waiting to get into the gallery. I got a little star struck watching Al Franken walk in. I had listened to a podcast of him being interviewed by Larry Wilmore on my drive up to Washington. He’s so smart and so funny. He’s shorter than I thought. I looked over at Mitch McConnell and remarked to the woman next to me that I think he looks even more turtle-like in person.

But before John McCain walked in and voted to open “debate” on a bill that no one has seen, I was hauled out of the gallery for having a photo of my late son. That’s right, I’m a dangerous subversive because I carried a photo.

As I was speaking to a cop, who was taking down my personal information, I heard the chanting start. Now, I don’t know if I was about to be arrested or simply banned from seeing the Senate at “work,” but I looked at the officer and took a deep breath.

The officer, whose name is Michael, and who is the same age my son was when he got sick, said, “Don’t do it.”

“I have to, ” I said. I turned my back to him and started chanting. Then with him behind me, I walked over to the line of people being taken out of the gallery.

It was a little like “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” where Spock, who is not charged with a crime, walks up to stand with Kirk and the others, saying, “I stand with my shipmates.”  I could almost hear my son laughing as that thought entered my head.

I kept chanting as Officer Michael caught up with me and held my elbow. They cuffed us behind our backs as we waited for the elevator, and my nose started itching immediately.

They took us to the building’s garage, where we were searched. As they took our jewelry, wallets, even the tissues I had tucked into my pocket, we sang freedom songs and hymns.

We sang in the paddy wagon, and we sang in the converted garage they had set up to process us. We sang “This Little Light of Mine” and “Hold On,” “Amazing Grace” and “We Shall Not be Moved.” A rabbi among us taught us a Hebrew song.

The officers were all respectful and kind. Several of them even joked with us. One admitted quietly to me that he respected and admired us. Another whispered to me she was honored to be in our presence. They had several coolers filled with cold water and a half dozen big floor fans to keep the air moving in the garage to keep us comfortable. They took off the cuffs and cuffed everyone in front, which is a whole lot more comfortable. We sat on cafeteria chairs and chatted.

There were a few from the North Carolina Moral Monday Movement, including Rev. Rob Stephens and Jennifer “Jeff” Ginsburg, a hospice nurse who was arrested with me in Raleigh on May 30. Jeff, by the way, runs a small box turtle rescue operation, which makes her an expert on turtles. She agreed that McConnell is an evil turtle.

Others, including Dr. Margaret Flowers and Rev. Traci Blackmon, walked with us and sat with us, but didn’t participate in the action because of their previous arrests.

We were supposed to be given a $50 fine and released, but we were charged with disrupting the Senate, which is a slightly more serious charge and means we all have to go back for a court date.

If they think that intimidates me, they should think again. I’m fighting for the lives of every American. I’m fighting for health care as a human right. This fight is way bigger than one bereaved old woman.

After we were released, we were all hungry enough to be grateful for the cold pizza that was waiting for us across the street from where we were being held.

We called an Uber car to take us back to the church for the belongings we left there. The driver was a Muslim man from Afghanistan, who, when he found out who we were, refused to accept payment from us.

“I don’t take money from heroes,” he said.

After I gathered my things and started walking to the Metro station near the Capitol, I saw Sen. Lindsay Graham in the crosswalk. I approached and stuck out my hand.

“Senator Graham,” I said, “I’m from North Carolina.”

“Then we’re neighbors,” he said, smiling.

“I know you’re in a hurry, but I need to speak to you for just a moment.” I pulled out my photo of Mike. “This is my son who died from lack of access to health care. He was a good man, a hard worker, a community volunteer and the light of my life.”

He looked at the photo, somewhat shocked at being accosted, I think.

“”Please, please, sir, I beg you to think about the lives that will be lost, the families who will grieve, before you vote on any health care bill.”

“I will,” he said as he handed the photo back to me.

He voted against the first bill that night. I like to think he saw Mike in his head, but then he voted yes on the second bill.

I am exhausted. I am worried about my own health — I have a bunch of kidney stones — but I have access to decent care and I have to fight for those who do not.

I slept well last night, knowing I have done the right thing and that I will continue to fight these murderers. As long as my heart beats, I will continue this fight. This isn’t for or about me. This is about being truly pro-life. This is about loving my neighbor.

I’m not a hero, I’m just a person following my conscience and my faith. I know how it feels to lose a child, and I live in fear of losing my only surviving son, of outliving both of my children because of the greed of a few powerful men. This is what moves me to action.

I am standing for the lives of my fellow human beings.

I can’t sit down.

 

 

The irony of McCain’s cancer diagnosis

Photo by NBC News.

Not that many people get this, but is is more than a little ironic that John McCain’s brain tumor postponed the vote to take away access to health care for millions of Americans.

McCain was a sure “yes” vote on the “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act that Sen. Mitch McConnell was pushing. I don’t know that this diagnosis will change McCain’s mind on that vote.

Still, I would not wish this on him and I am grateful that he has access to the care he will need if he is to beat this.

My son never had that chance.

I’m being criticized today for saying this because McCain is a mean-spirited man who has fallen in willingly with thugs and thieves. He was set to help take away access to health care for 23 million Americans.

That is the aiding and abetting of murder.

To me, that doesn’t matter right now because when I say everyone deserves access to quality health care, I mean exactly that.

No one deserves to die the way my son did. No one. Period.

It would be the height of hypocrisy to stand up in public and say no one deserves to die the way my son did and then turn around and wish it on someone else, even if that someone is not a good person.

Conservatives say they don’t want universal health care because some people just want a handout.

That’s bullshit.

In my 30 years as a reporter covering social justice issues and in my nine years of health care advocacy work, I have not met anyone who just wants a handout.

My son wanted health care. He worked hard and he went to school and he was a community volunteer who gave selflessly of himself to help others.

And don’t tell me, “OK, your son deserved to live, but some people are lazy …” Who the hell are you to decide who deserves to live? Where do you get off condemning someone to die because you deem them too lazy, or too mean?

No one deserves to go without access to health care. No one. Period, end of discussion.

I don’t know John McCain personally, and I am not going to judge him other than to say he has done and said some incredibly mean-spirited things. Still, he does deserve health care.

I am grateful that his family doesn’t have to watch him die from medical neglect. Having watched my son die from lack of access to care, I am steadfast in my desire to see no one else die that way.

 

 

 

 

They’re not done trying to steal our health care

Do you really think this man and his partners in crime are going to give up and stop trying to take away our access to health care?

 

Everyone seems in a celebratory mood this morning.

Stop it.

Stop it now.

Mitch McConnell announced the latest version of Trumpcare is dead, and that saves Medicaid — for now.

But he also announced he will try a “clean repeal,” meaning the ACA would go away in two years. It would leave up to 33 million people without insurance. Thirty-three million. That’s how many people have gained insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

When my son died on April 1, 2008, I started fighting for reform. In 2009, I left my job as a newspaper reporter — I volunteered to be laid off — so I could devote all my time to the effort.

I wasn’t thrilled with the Affordable Care Act, but it was a step in the right direction. It would have forced insurance companies to cover my son and he likely would still be alive — that is, if it had passed in 2005 instead of 2010.

As it is, my friend, Kelly, who worked with me in the fight to pass the ACA, will die if this is repealed. Kelly has lived with cancer for years, and if the ACA goes away, she will lose her insurance and her access to the care she needs. She will die.

Middle-aged people with diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression and any number of other illnesses, will be left to die. Cancers that are treatable when diagnosed early will be diagnosed too late to save people’s lives — exactly what happened to my son.

Think about it: if you make $35,000 a year and you have a policy with a $10,000 deductible and high co-pays, you won’t be able to afford care unless you sell your house — if you own a house and can sell it in time to save your life. That’s what the Senate version of “replace” had in it, a two-tiered insurance system that would give people with a lot of money good insurance while the rest of us would be able to get only junk plans.

Before the ACA, some 45,000 Americans died every year from lack of access to care. That’s one every 12 minutes.

Under the ACA, an estimated 33 million more Americans are covered than were before. Most of the 12 to 15 million without coverage now are low-income people in states that have so far refused to expand Medicaid. That’s also where most of the approximately 20,000 who die every year from lack of coverage live.

So, we’re saving 25,000 lives every year with the ACA, but the powers in Washington want it repealed because — well, why?

The ACA is not failing. Insurance companies are not going broke. In fact, a federal court has found that United Health Care was not losing the money it claimed it was losing when it pulled out of the ACA marketplaces.

What’s happening is that a group of ultra-wealthy, ultra-conservative thugs want more money. They want more tax breaks for the rich. They want less regulation. And they don’t give a damn about you and me. They don’t care about the opioid addiction epidemic — in fact, they deliberately caused it to make money.

If you don’t remember, Purdue Pharmaceuticals began marketing synthetic opiates in about 1996. They told doctors and others that this new synthetic wasn’t addictive, although they knew damn well it is. Before long, doctors were prescribing it for things as simple as a tooth extraction — things where an over-the-counter painkiller would do.

They now ship enough painkillers into West Virginia alone to kill everyone in the state.

And you think these murderers are going to give up now because they can’t get a “replacement” through for the ACA?

Think again.

Their disdain for us runs so deep that they won’t give up. Tax cuts are far more important to them than our lives. They want that money.

They’re talking about passing a repeal that would take effect in two years — after the next election so we we can be distracted easily, since we’ll still have our insurance at election time. They can keep promising a replacement that they have no intention of passing.

Please remember that they’ve had seven years to come up with a replacement and they showed us already that they have nothing.

If they genuinely cared a whit for us, they would have had some idea how to do this. But the ACA was a conservative idea, generated by a conservative think tank (The Heritage Foundation) and implemented by a conservative governor (Mitt Romney) in a single state. The Democrats pushed it because they thought conservatives might be willing to go with their own idea.

They weren’t.

Obama offered a huge olive branch with the ACA, and he put icing on the cake by taking single-payer off the table at the outset. Had we started discussions there, we might have been able to get a public option and give insurance companies some competition.

But we started negotiations in the center and landed right of center, and they still want to get rid of it.

That alone should tell you that they will stop at nothing to take away our health care. If it is at all possible, they will do it. And they won’t stop trying.

Don’t let up now. Don’t stop calling, writing, e-mailing, faxing … Our lives depend on it.

 

 

 

Negotiating our care in a broken system

Mission Health System, the largest hospital and the largest employer here in the Asheville region, has announced it may leave the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina network in October.

That has a lot of people in a panic, since Mission is our only option here and BCBS is pretty much the only insurer in the state — three-quarters of all people with health insurance here have it through them.

Leaving the network would mean closing the hospital. It couldn’t survive because it wouldn’t be able to collect the money it’s owed by patients whose insurance only covers half the cost of their bills.

On the other hand, this dramatic announcement allows Mission to tell the public how desperate things are becoming here.

Here’s why: Our state’s legislature has rejected the billions in federal dollars to expand Medicaid.

Before the Affordable Care Act, the federal government reimbursed hospitals and clinics for the money they spent caring for people who couldn’t pay. The ACA’s provision for expanding Medicaid was meant to replace this money, but the Supreme Court ruled that Medicaid expansion couldn’t be mandatory, so mostly Republican states, mostly in the South, decided to shoot themselves in the foot and not expand.

Now, we’re still paying our full share into the Medicaid expansion pot, but not a penny of that money is coming back into North Carolina. Instead, it’s going to states like Arizona that have expanded Medicaid, and North Carolina’s hospitals are losing billions of dollars a year.

What’s worse is that about five people in this state die every single day — up to 2,000 a year — from lack of access to care.

Instead of lobbying the legislature to expand Medicaid, BCBS is insisting this is not its problem, and Mission is left to try and survive by cutting services.

Already, several small hospitals in the state have either closed or been bought up by larger hospital systems like Mission that can weather the storm longer than they can.

But this can’t continue. Eventually, even the wealthiest people here won’t have access to services because they won’t be available.

I know this tactic of brinksmanship. I saw it as a reporter. I would get press releases from the hospital claiming the insurance company wanted to reduce rates to the point where the hospital wouldn’t be able to survive. On the other hand, I got press releases from the insurance companies saying the hospital was guilty of gross inefficiency.

Once the contracts were signed, usually within days of the deadline, everyone was buddy-buddy again.

One year, the CEO of BCBS came to Asheville for a Chamber of Commerce event and praised Mission as one of the most efficient hospitals in the nation. This was just four months after a press release with the same CEO saying Mission was one of the worst.

So, with press release in hand, I approached him after his speech and asked if he had any thoughts on Mission’s dramatic turnaround in just four months.

He had no comment.

This is a game — a dangerous game with human beings as pawns, but a game nevertheless.

The hospital needs higher reimbursements to cover the losses from the state legislature’s recalcitrant position. The insurance company can’t keep paying more without some serious rate hikes.

Everyone involved here is guilty of greed or of trying to make a political point at the expense of human life.

It is all deeply, deeply immoral, but I think people need to understand who’s at fault here and what could happen.

The Affordable Care Act isn’t perfect, but it’s better than what we had before. The rate of people with insurance are at an historic high in the country right now. If all the states expanded Medicaid, insured rates would be over 90 percent.

In states that have expanded Medicaid, insurance rates are rising far more slowly and health care expenses are leveling off. In states like this one, health care costs continue to spiral out of control and people continue to die.

So, who’s pro-life now?

 

My letter to my senator on the ACHA

Me and Mike on his wedding day. Damn, I miss him.

 

I faxed this letter to Sen. Thom Tillis yesterday. Perhaps, if he reads it, he might understand that real people, innocent people, die when they can’t gain access to health care. I sent a similar letter to Richard Burr. Please, please, call, fax, e-mail or visit the offices of your senators.

Senator Tillis,

I think you probably know who I am. I am the mother of a young man who died because he lacked access to health care. You had me arrested for trying to speak to you when you were Speaker of the House in North Carolina about the importance of access to health care. You were one of the leaders in the fight to withhold Medicaid from a half million people in this state, sentencing some 2,000 of them to death every year.

The ACA would have saved my son’s life because it forces insurance companies to not punish people who have pre-existing conditions.

My son had a birth defect. Like many young people, he decided to take a year off college when he was 19. Little did we know this common decision would be a fatal one for him. He was booted off my policy and then discovered he couldn’t buy insurance at any price because a birth defect is a pre-existing condition – as though he had decided as a zygote to have a birth defect.

This birth defect left him extremely vulnerable to an aggressive form of colon cancer, and he needed a colonoscopy every year. When he lived in New York, he had a doctor who would allow him to pay for his colonoscopies in monthly installments. By age 25, he had already had pre-cancerous polyps removed, so he had a near certainty of developing cancer if he couldn’t get his annual colonoscopies. But when he moved so he and his wife could go back to college, he discovered he could not get a colonoscopy unless he paid $2,300 in cash up front. No credit cards, no checks, no installments, nothing.

When he got sick he went to the ER three times and came away with three wrong diagnoses, three wrong medications and three large bills. You see – and I’m sure you know this – the emergency room only has to stabilize you; it does not have to look for the cause of your problem.

By the time anyone did anything, my son had stage 3 cancer. It was too late to save his life.

My son was a student, he worked 30 hours a week and he was a volunteer. He was an extraordinary young man.

But none of that mattered. He was sentenced to death – a slow and excruciating death – for having a birth defect. He had to leave his wife to get Medicaid and although he had applied for disability when he first became sick, his approval took 37 months and he was dead nine days before his first check arrived.

I tell you this story because, at the time he died, 45,000 Americans were dying every year from lack of access to health care, according to a study by Harvard Medical School that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The ACA has saved more than half of those lives. The uninsured rate in this country right now is at an historic low. The law is saving tens of thousands of lives every year, and to repeal it is tantamount to murder.

No, that statement is not overstating things. You are working on killing more than 25,000 innocent Americans every year. Those are human beings, Senator, and their lives matter a whole lot to me and to all the people who love them.

I have to face every damn day without my beloved son. I get up every morning longing to hear his voice again, devastated that I will never laugh at another one of his outrageous jokes or taste his cooking or have another late-night conversation about philosophy with him. I will never hear him tease me about being a Red Sox fan, or look for my chocolate stash only to discover he found it and left me just one little piece.

Perhaps it’s time to turn your back on your corporate overlords and become truly pro-life. Vote no on repealing the ACA. Vote to save the lives of the people who will die without insurance.

You have to know what you’re about to do is wrong.

If you go ahead with this, I hope and pray that you will burn in hell.

Leslie Boyd
Candler, NC

Arrested — again

I spoke at the press conference an hour or so after being released from jail, with Rev. Barber standing nearby. I am so proud to be a part of this movement. Arrest me all you want, I refuse to stop trying to talk to legislators about health care as a basic human right.

 

On Tuesday morning, I got my butt hauled off to jail for the third time in four years.

I wanted to talk to Senate leader Phil Berger, as is my right under the North Carolina Constitution, but when I got to his office, a very large man was standing in the doorway, blocking my entrance.

“You can’t go in there, it’s private,” he said.

“No it’s not,” I said. “This is a public building and the person whose office this is, is a public official. I have a Constitutional right to speak to him.”

“He’s not in here.”

“Well, then, I’ll wait.”

He continued to block the entrance and several of us began to chant, “Health care NOW!”

At this point another man came to stand by the first one.

“You need to be quiet,” he said. “People are trying to work.”

I stared at him or a short moment.

“HEALTH CARE NOW!” I said, looking him straight in the eye, and those behind me joined in the chant.

I don’t like to be shushed in any case, but I get particularly testy when lives are at stake, and they most certainly are here. Some five people are dying every single say because Sen. Berger and his cronies are denying the Medicaid expansion provided for under the Affordable Care Act. This denial leaves a half million people in our state without access to care, and as I said, about five of them die every day, just the way my son did.

I’m not going into the General Assembly Building for entertainment or any frivolous purpose; I’m going in there to try and speak to my legislators about how desperately this Medicaid expansion is needed.

These people call them selves “pro-life” and “Christian,” yet their actions show a callous disregard for human life.

Rev. Barber stood with us as most of us sat down on the floor to wait for Sen. Berger to come back to his office.

We were told we were blocking the doorway, but we were not the ones doing that. We would have gone in and sat quietly and waited, but the door was blocked by his thugs, not by us.

We were told we were making too much noise, but I explained that people’s lives are more important than the ability of Berger’s secretary to hear who was on the other end of the phone line, and that if they would let us in, we would sit quietly an wait.

So, we started singing to pass the time.

“We shall not, we shall not be moved
“We shall not, we shall not be moved
“Just like a tree, planted by the water,
“We shall not be moved.

We’re fighting for our health care, we shall not be moved
“We’re fighting for our health care, we shall not be moved
“Just like a tree, planted by the water,
“We shall not be moved.”

Chief Martin Brock came by with a megaphone and warned us we had to leave, but we were there to address legislative leaders, as is our right under the NC Constitution, and we intended to do just that.

So, we were arrested, 32 of us, for second-degree trespass in a public building while it was open to the public. This is my third arrest for this same thing. The first one was thrown out on appeal. They never even bothered to prosecute me for the second arrest and there’s a petition to dismiss the charges because I never got a court date.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, hoping for different results. Perhaps I am insane for trying again and again to make these lawmakers see that their actions are killing the very people they have sworn to serve. But I will not give up.

We spent an hour or so in a committee meeting room in the legislature building, singing freedom songs and hymns, before we were herded into vans and taken to the Wake County Detention Center, where we were processed and placed in holding cells.

I don’t know about the men, but we women started singing again. An officer told us we had to quiet down, so we sang a little more quietly. We had a contest to see who could stand on one foot the longest. We comforted a very frightened young woman who had been arrested for driving without a license, and we laughed.

We had been without food all day by the time we were released at about 4:30, so we were grateful to find snacks and water, brought by the Movement support team.

And we made it back downtown in time for the 6 p.m. press conference.

I love my Moral Monday Movement family, from our convener, Rev. William Barber, to all the people who stand with him in solidarity, no matter what our issues.

I’ll be honest: I believe this movement and the people in it have saved my life. There have been days I didn’t want to go on without my son, but these good people have held me up. I feel reborn every time I am with them. When I lose hope, someone always reaches out to support me and tell me we will triumph.

Progress is slow. Movements take time. I’m in this until we finish the work or until I’m carried out feet-first.

 

Telling the story, over and over

Speaking at a town hall to which my congressman was invited, but chose not to attend.

Three times on Friday and Saturday, I told the story of the death of my son.

It never gets easier. It’s emotionally exhausting, yet I work to find places to speak and people willing to listen because his is the face of the injustice inherent in our so-called health care system.

I stood alone outside the federal office building in Asheville Friday at noon as people at the stoplight honked their approval (this was the first time I’ve done this that no one flipped me off or said rude things). Then I packed up and went to a “listening” session sponsored by the NC Department of Health and Human Services, which is trying to put the best face possible on the legislature’s planned dismantling of Medicaid here in North Carolina.

The right-wing agenda of the legislature has been the shredding of our social safety net ever since they took power in 2010. They have refused to even consider expanding Medicaid and have chosen instead to privatize it, to farm it out to their corporate friends, who will line their pockets with some of the limited funds meant to help people in need.

I listened to a woman who is blind talk about losing her job, and with it, her access to health care, because North Carolina refuses to allow access to health care to people who live below the federal poverty level.

I listened to another woman talk about trying to recover from a horrible accident while having no access to care because, even though she has obvious disabilities related to the accident, she has been denied both Medicaid and disability. I heard her vow, tearfully, to continue her fight.

Like these two women, my son was not lazy, nor was he to blame in any way for his condition. He didn’t choose to have a birth defect that left him vulnerable to colon cancer. He didn’t choose not to buy insurance — that was decided for him by greedy corporate hacks who saw no profit in him. In fact, no one saw a profit in him until he had stage 3 colon cancer and needed chemotherapy. That’s when he became eligible for Medicaid (but only after he left his wife), and the drug companies collected more than a half million dollars while my son waited for approval for disability. He would not live to see a penny of it — his approval took 37 months and he was dead nine days when his first check arrived.

This state destroyed a decent mental health system a dozen years ago when it privatized services. I know because I was the one reporter in the state who covered it from the beginning. I watched as people who needed help were denied services. I watched as the state made change after change after change to the system, never allowing it to stabilize. I watched as people died.

When I returned to work after the death of my son, I found an e-mail telling me about the deaths of three young men who died within weeks after being released from state psychiatric hospitals without follow-up plans. One of them was released and dropped off at a homeless shelter that had been closed for months. He landed in a fleabag motel, where, in utter despair, he took his own life.

No policymakers cared until the day the story ran. Then they announced a policy change: No one would be released from a state psychiatric hospital without a follow-up appointment with a psychiatrist and enough medication to carry them over to that appointment.

It took more than the three deaths — it took public outrage over those three deaths — to change policy.

Stories are powerful. Stories matter. That’s why I continue to tell my son’s story.

I told his story again on Saturday, at a Town Hall to which Mark Meadows, our member of Congress, was invited, but to which he didn’t come.

I talked about Mike’s experience not getting what he needed, even from the emergency room. I explained that the ER only has to stabilize patients, not look for or address the root cause.

Two women came up to me after I spoke and told me I was wrong. I explained again how the ER only has to stabilize patients and they insisted what my son got was treatment.

“No, he didn’t,” I said. “He left the ER with the wrong diagnosis, the wrong medications and a big bill three times. What he needed was a diagnosis of the malignant tumor that was blocking his colon.”

“I’ve studied this,” one of them said to me.

“I’ve read the laws and written about it for three decades,” I told her. “You are wrong.”

She tried again to tell me I was wrong, and I just turned and walked away. Some people refuse to hear the truth and I can’t waste my time trying to get through to them.

After that, as I stood fuming about how ignorant people can be, a woman walked up to me and said, “You’re probably going to think I’m crazy, but I have a message from your son. He’s really, really proud of you. He stands behind you as you speak, and he’s smiling.”

I decided to not think she’s crazy. I need to feel his presence whenever I can. I need for him to not be completely gone from me.

So, I tell his story. In his memory, I work for access to health care for every human being, and I won’t stop until we’re done.

They think it’s a joke; I beg to differ

These are the people who just voted to gut your health care. Remember this in 2018. They all need to be sent home. Every damn one of them.

At a town hall in Idaho’s First Congressional District, Rep. Raul Labrador, a Republican, claimed no one dies from lack of access to care. The moment was broadcast on CNN.

“No one dies from lack of access to health care.”

I have news for you, you ignorant thug; you can pretend all you want that your vote to eviscerate the health care of more than 24 million people with this draconian bill won’t cause any harm, but the reality is that you will be responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Americans.

I was advised to have an abortion when I was pregnant with my son, Michael, because I’d contracted a rare virus and no one knew what problems it might cause. I chose (notice I have emphasized that word) to continue the pregnancy and I adored my son, despite the birth defect that would make it impossible for him to buy insurance, and with it, access to the care he needed.

His doctors chose to deny him the treatment he needed. That choice led directly to his death. That’s the truth, Raul. My son died as a direct result of the health care system you just voted to re-break.

This is my son, Mike, a very wise young man. I continue to be influenced and informed by his compassion and love.

If you and your cronies think you won’t be held responsible, think again. You now have made us so angry, so desperate to get rid of you and your ilk, that gerrymandering won’t protect all of you.

Come Judgement Day (I stopped believing in this many years ago, but I am reviving my belief in the hope that it will happen), you will be held accountable and you will be cast into the pits of hell (another belief I am reviving in hopes you and your murdering cronies will land there).

I already have told my representative, Mark Meadows, the same thing in a fax and in a comment on his happy post on Facebook.

We are coming for you, I told him. We have an opponent who can beat him, I think, a smart, charismatic, passionate and compassionate man named Matt Coffay. I don’t donate to political candidates as a rule, but I have donated to Matt and I will work as hard as I can to get him elected.

The very soul of our nation is at stake here. Are we a nation that cares about human life and wants to alleviate human suffering, or do these murdering thugs truly represent us?

I will once again carry voter registration forms with me everywhere I go. I will register even more than the 50 or so voters I registered for the last election. I will drive people to the polls. I will speak out against this despicable attempt to steal access to health care from the 33 million people who gained insurance under the Affordable Care Act because I am pro-life.

 

 

 

 

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