It Doesn't Have To Be Like This

All of us have stories about desperately ill friends and family who have faced the cold cruel reality of being denied treatment by an indifferent insurer. We must all make our voices heard.
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Those are the last words on the screen of the ad I just filmed depicting the very real consequences of the Insurance Industry's mal-practices. I have not done a television commercial in well at least 20 years and the only one I ever booked was a cereal ad in which I thought I was funny and the good folks at Grape Nuts most definitely did not. It's not that I have anything against them. I have wept at McDonald's commercials during the X-mas season and laughed at the raucous pitches that punctuate Super Bowl Sunday. I tried out for them for a while back in my 20's, but never seemed to click with the buyers. I just was never normal enough to be everywoman and not weird enough to be her sidekick. I quit trying, because, I don't have time to pursue something I am not passionate about.

My twin passions for acting and activism have long been competing forces in my life. I am not happy doing one without the other, and I am happiest when the two passions intersect, as they have in a new video I did for my friends at the Courage Campaign. I am appearing in my commercial debut in "Insurance Jive" which addresses one of my deepest concerns as a progressive Democrat.

In the ad which is Inspired by the scene from Airplane (1980!) where Barbara Billingsley translates "jive," I play a nurse who attempts to translate Insurance speak to a couple in my care. I translate it but this is where the comparison ends because I am not funny ... this stuff is not funny at all. The ad is based on the true story about breast cancer patient Pasty Bates who had to forgo her chemotherapy treatments after Health Net, cancelled her policy. The Los Angeles Times reported Ms. Bates' experience earlier this year when an arbitration judge ordered Health Net, one of California's largest for-profit insurers, to pay her $9 million in punitive and other damages.

The role of a nurse who has had enough of this" jive" was not exactly a stretch. All of us have stories about desperately ill friends and family who have faced the cold cruel reality of being denied treatment by an indifferent insurer. We have all had enough of Blue Cross, Assurant, Health Net, Cigna and the many other giant companies canceling coverage just when the patient needs and expects to be, well, insured against catastrophe. The simple truth is that the insurance industry is built on our premium payments, but it profits when it does not have to pay.

And what of those whom these companies refuse to insure from the outset? The following are excerpts from a letter I recently received from a young woman who I work with in my capacity as a mentor to the Young Progressive Majority. Sonia Rasula is a beautiful brilliant 25 year old who has recently been attempting to find health insurance on her own.

To all my people "in the know"... I need help!

Dear Miss Rasula:

Thank you for considering Kaiser Permanente for Individuals and Families $1,500 Deductible Plan for your health coverage. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer Sonja Rasula coverage at this time. Kaiser Permanente for Individuals and Families is a cost-effective individual health care coverage program. We maintain its cost-effectiveness by only accepting for membership those individuals who successfully pass the medical underwriting screening process. Based on the information provided on the application for membership, we cannot approve enrollment due to the following:

- History of neurologic condition within the last 5 years.

- Use of medication for your medical condition

After being rejected by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, this morning I was rejected by my last resort, Kaiser. That's 0 for 3! I am one of the healthiest, prevention-savvy people around, except for the damn fact that I have narcolepsy (a disease that one is born with and there's nothing to prevent it). I can't tell you how crappy this is and feels. I'm pretty desperate now and feeling very depressed about the US Healthcare system.. Help a girl out. Is there some weird law out there, allowing me to be covered by my parents plan? Do you know of an action group, or grassroots healthcare provider? Websites, healthcare bills, orgs -- anything you send my way I'll look at.

What we are telling our children is 'You are damned if you do and damned if you don't and double damned if you don't even qualify for consideration in the first place. Sorry Sonia, welcome to America's health un-care system.

What do they do with all the money they save by leaving girls like Sonia to fend for herself? Well, they pay themselves a whole lot of money. For example, the CEO of Health Net that so busily denied benefits to Patsy Bates got about $3.7 million in compensation last year, on top of all of the stock he has been given at low or no price over the years. Patsy's loss was Mr. Gellert gain. When his company screws us out of a procedure that could save a life, he gets another ride on the company jet, another house, another day at the beach. Mr.Gellert gets the good life and somewhere someone dies.

LA's City Attorney, Rocky Delgadillo, has gotten national acclaim for suing insurance companies who deliberately deny benefits to those in need in order to line their pockets. It's sad that he has to use the courts to force these executives to value lives over profits, but we have to use every weapon at our disposal in this fight It will take a huge act of collective will to achieve a fair workable solution. These are not the kind of folks one asks nicely ...we will have to demand a National Healthcare plan.

We must all make our voices heard loudly and clearly and often. Our ad "Insurance Jive" is a way to start fighting back and spreading the word:

Please watch the video and give what you can to help us get it on the air.

The Courage Campaign, the California Nurses Association and Senator Shelia Kuehl have joined forces with Mr. Delgadillo to tackle these Insurance companies head on. In addition to producing our ad, they will be in San Francisco tomorrow taking their case straight to the offenders as they rally outside the National Insurance Convention.

Please show your support by helping us stand up to the greed and apathy of these corporate giants.

. Make a Donation to the Courage Campaign today, because truly...

... It doesn't have to be like this.

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