I'm sick of it. I'm sick of the health care system that doesn't work. I'm sick of the health care system that devotes the bulk of its energy and budget to the treatment of chronic disease, leaving little behind to provide for high-quality preventive care. I'm sick of the health care system that leaves millions of people uninsured. I'm sick of the health care system that leaves family members and friends with diseases that they cannot afford to take care of.
And I know I'm not alone. Most of us are sick of it, especially those of us who are sick.
An estimated 130 million Americans suffer from chronic disease and cost our nation nearly $20.8 billion each year. Despite the fact that these diseases are largely preventable with ongoing care and lifestyle improvements, they still stand as the leading cause of death and disability in our nation. This is due in large part to the fact that our health care system does not provide access to the preventive care or wellness resources necessary to curb the costly and devastating outcomes of chronic disease.
An organization called Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease is harnessing and disseminating the energy of those who are just as fed up with the health care system as I am. It has launched a Web site called "Say Yes to Health Reform," which chronicles, via online streaming video, the personal accounts of local citizens who are ready to call it quits on the current system in favor of one that actually works.
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Their stories are diverse. Some are charged with vitriol of the underinsured, like that of Raymond Mars, a former law enforcement officer from Columbia who angrily shouts his frustrations: "I am sick of being a diabetic! I am sick of the health care system that makes it difficult for me to manage my diabetes!"
Others are more reserved in their misgivings, but convey messages no less poignant. A local small business owner shares his story with calm disillusionment, saying: "I suffer from chronic asthma. I take two medications that cost me $320 every month. And I can't afford health insurance.... I'm sick of the health care system that spends three-fourths of its health care dollars treating chronic illnesses, rather than preventing them."
Mine is the story of my organization, the United Way Association of South Carolina, where health care reform is essential not only to improve the health of those we seek to help, but also to improve their safety, education and financial stability.
Each of our stories is quite distinct, yet a single sentiment runs clear through the heart of every testimonial: Each of us has unequivocally said no to the status quo and yes to comprehensive health reform.
Initiatives such as Say Yes to Health Reform that understand the power of the individual voice now stand as our best chance at achieving any real health reform. It is essential that we speak up and share our stories, because by doing so, we will encourage others to do so. By organizing and broadcasting a collection of these individual stories, we will amass a collective voice that will boom through the halls of our hospitals, the streets of our neighborhoods and each of our homes until our message reaches a volume that can no longer be ignored.