No Matter What, You Cannot Unfeel the Healthcare Pain in California

By Donna Smith

It hurts. The stories hurt. The aching, pounding, insistent sounds of Californians telling the nurses where it hurts. This is what the Medicare for all for life bus tour is all about in California. And just as you cannot unring a bell, there is no way you can unfeel the pain people share as they demand change.

In Bakersfield last week, we heard about an 87-year old man who is extracting his own teeth because he was worried about the cost.  He developed serious jaw problems, and only told his family when the pain became unbearable.  They took him to the dentist, and they struggled to find a way to cover the $300 for each visit he needed to relieve his pain.

In Fresno last evening, we heard from several different community members who stopped in for screenings and then stayed to tell their stories.   One 64-year-old woman told us about hoping she makes it to her 65th birthday and to Medicare coverage because though she works two separate, part-time jobs as a caregiver to the elderly and infirmed, she has no health insurance herself.   When she goes home at night after lifting and bending all day, she cares for her 86-year-old mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. She has a shoulder injury, but after surgery covered by Workman’s Compensation, she was discharged so quickly that she went home with pneumonia that then caused her to need more care and incur a huge bill.  She’s exhausted, and she knows that Medicare for all for life is the only way people like her could be spared from waiting and praying they’ll make it the age when they don’t fear getting sick or hurt so much.

City after city on the tour, we hear the stories.  And along with the Campaign for a Healthy California, the nurses of National Nurses United are listening and gathering momentum to fight for the kind of healthcare system in which our humanity and our shared common sense about right and wrong win out over greed.  We can provide improved, expanded Medicare for all for life.  We cannot unfeel the pain, but we also now cannot unring the bell that is clamoring for a better, stronger and more just California.

Join us.  Join the nurses.  Tell us where it hurts.  Tell each other that our lives matter, our communities matter, and we will not stop until our policy reflects that.  The Supreme Court may rule on Obamacare or Romneycare or the Affordable Care Act (call it what you will), but the people are ruling on the reality of the trauma in this mess of a healthcare system in California and around the nation that will not be resolved no matter the high court ruling.  We can make this system what we want it to be, but it will require that we tell the truth, hear the pain and then set out together to end this preventable suffering.

Next up?  Modesto, Stockton and Chico before we motor into the Bay Area.  For more information, check our schedule.