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Her Son’s a Quadriplegic; That’s the Least of Her Worries

__180x200_hcsurvey.gif It was tragic enough that her 11-year-old son became a quadriplegic after gunshots hit him while he was playing outside. But now Alberta, a single mother, worries every day because she can’t leave her job to take care of her son. Without her job, she has no way to get, or pay for, health coverage for her son.

Alberta told us her story as part of the AFL-CIO and Working America 2009 Health Care for America Survey. She did so because, as she put it:

I wanted to share this story because I just wanted people to understand that your life could change so much in just a few seconds and if the safety enjoyed by those of us who have insurance provided by work could be shattered. Health care is necessary and I didn’t think much about it until I was faced with tragedy and met so many others that were in similar situations some of which have lost everything as a result.

People taking the survey have the option of telling their health care stories in their own words—in writing or in a video.

Last year when we ran an online health care survey, more than 26,000 people responded. In addition, 7,489 people took the time to submit heart-wrenching stories about their own personal health care experiences.

What most surprised us is that the majority of the people who took the survey were insured and employed—like Alberta. Most were college graduates. This is a group that would seem most likely to have positive experiences with America’s health care system. Not so.

This year, we plan to share tallied results of the survey with national and state leaders and the media. Congress, the Obama administration and the media are hearing plenty about health care reform from drugmakers and insurance companies—they need to hear from working families, too. Because there’s lots of suffering out there. As we note in our health care fact sheet available at the survey site:

  • Forty-one percent of working-age Americans had problems paying medical bills in 2007, and four in 10 of those used all their savings to pay their health care bills.
  • About half the families that file for bankruptcy do so, at least in part, because of health care debt.
  • In December and January, nearly 50 million people had no health insurance. About 14,000 people a day lost their coverage during those months.
  • Uninsured adults are 25 percent more likely to die prematurely than adults who have insurance.

This year’s survey asks:

  • How has the economic downturn affected your household in the past year?
  • In the past year, have you or has someone in your household lost health coverage because of losing a job or changing jobs?
  • Are you able to get the health care you need at a price you can afford?
  • How much did you and your household spend out of your own pockets for health care in the past year?

Thanks to everyone here for taking the survey last year and passing it along. If you have space on your website, and know others who do as well, we have online banners that link to the survey, available here.

And I hope you can take a minute to take the survey and even tell us your story. We need to get our voices to the Hill so Big Pharma and the insurance industry aren’t the only ones who get an ear.

Update: We have a winner in the Chicken Little Sky Is Falling Bizarre Corporate Panic Disorder Over Workers’ Rights contest, which I wrote about at FDL here. The ugly chicken award recognizes the most over-the-top bottom comment about the Employee Free Choice Act. The winner is: casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who said there are two “fundamental threats to society”: “radical Islam” and the Employee Free Choice Act. Runner-up is Randel Johnson of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who promised to make the corporate front groups’ battle against Employee Free Choice “a firestorm bordering on Armageddon."

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Tula Connell

Tula Connell