After Philly

When we finally reached CIGNA HQ, CEO Ed Hanway chose to shut his door to Dawn, and to the thousands of people who stood with her in the journey to Philadelphia. Instead, Dawn had a conversation with CIGNA’s Chief Medical Officer, who met her with a fistful of half promises and partial admissions of guilt. She certainly has their attention, but still doesn’t have any guarantees as to whether she’ll actually get the care she needs. Dawn and her companions on the journey will be heading home this weekend, but her fight isn’t over.

I’m convinced Dawn’s story can’t be heard enough — every time she tells someone about her illness and what CIGNA put her through, I see them starting to think differently about our health care system. Even when you already know how broken it is, hearing Dawn speak deepens your commitment to change. Each person thinking differently is a grain of sand tipping the scales of the national debate towards reform. But we need to keep pouring the sand on.
Dawn’s trip shows that the messy distractions and lies of the anti-reformers can’t withstand the voices of real people wronged by a broken health care system. It’s up to all of us to keep sharing their stories and piling on the grains of sand that will tip the scales and make health care available for all Americans.

Dawn’s First Day in DC

Atlanta feels like a million miles away. Today on Capital Hill, we met with lawmakers and opinion makers about Dawn’s extraordinary experience. Walking through the halls of congressional offices, overhearing conversations in the cafeteria, it’s easy to see why the folks on our journey would feel like their voices aren’t being heard here. The talk is all vote counts and bill language — it seems easy to lose track of why health care reform is needed.

That’s why Dawn is here.  Today I watched her speak with reporters, congressmen and activists, and you could see her impact immediately: as soon as Dawn began to tell her story, people sobered up and paid attention. She forced them to think about health care reform as a matter of real pain and suffering, rather than cloture votes and log rolling.

But at the same time, the reaction of folks in DC didn’t differ all that much from the response of folks in Norfolk, or Asheville, or Atlanta. And that’s probably our greatest source of hope for the creation of a decent health care system: that the people eventually calling the shots remember what it’s like to feel at the mercy of indifferent illness, and do what’s right for people like Dawn.

A Day of Downtime for Dawn & Her Crew

Today we took some downtime. We’d spent the previous 2 days on the road moving at a pace that left even the healthier members of our crew wiped out, but today we recuperated in the great hospitality of Candice and Klaus, two MoveOn members in Raleigh, NC.

Reform has been debated against a background of artificial deadlines, every day the news cycle churns on with its daily crises‚ it’s hard for us to not feel rushed by the pace of politics. But today reminded us of what gets lost in the shuffle.

We have a health care system that not only lets people get sick, but also lets them become invisible. Some of us fighting for health care reform have the luxury of walking away from the issue after the workday ends or a bill gets passed, but the people who need change most — like Dawn – are still stuck with the day to day exhaustion of their illness.

It’s up to the well to make sure the unwell have a place at the table when we decide what should be done. That’s the ultimate importance of Dawn’s journey‚ making the voice of the ill present once more in the machinations of CIGNA’s corporate offices and the halls of Congress.

Day 2 On the Road

Today I could feel the momentum building. We met larger groups as we moved from city to city, beginning in Asheville, stopping in Charlotte, and then ending up in Raleigh-Durham. Every time I see Dawn speak, I’m left a little speechless — about everything.

We live in a wealthy country that makes big promises to its citizens — but life, liberty and happiness are hard to come by when walking leaves you exhausted, or shooting electric-shock type pains keep you up all night. The United States fails to make good on its promise when we leave folks in Dawn’s position. Along the way, I felt a growing sense of wonder at CIGNA’s lack of care.

Every stop, we meet more people who connect with Dawn’s journey, and you can immediately see the force of her presence. Her story is deeply powerful, and relates to too many other stories on our trip. It feels incredible that anyone could say no to her care. After you feel that baffled wonder that anyone could deny her care, you realize that to CIGNA, Dawn isn’t a person like we know her — she’s a claim number and a potential drag on their profits, and thus undeserving. It’s precisely this decontextualizing, dehumanizing force that we need to stop with real health reform.

The First Day of Our Journey

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We set out today with the well wishes of a great city behind us. At the capital, folks from all walks shared their health care stories with Dawn and we began collecting messages of support in pill bottles — the hallmark of our journey and how we will make CIGNA hear our voice.

On the Capital steps we heard from politicians and everyday Atlantans, all who recognized what needs to be done. We then went to visit the office of Senator Johnny Isakson, whose office staff offered to arrange a meeting with him when we arrive in DC — hopefully he will recognize it as well, and stand with her when we reach DC. With the wind at our backs, we slogged through rush hour Atlanta and then took side roads through the Chattahoochee National Forest on our way to Asheville.

The foothills of the Appalachian mountains swept by as we rumbled towards Asheville, and we got another glimpse about why we’re taking this on. We live in a beautiful, big country that deserves better from its health care system, and which can do better for its citizens.

Arriving in Atlanta

Today Dawn’s traveling companions arrived in Atlanta to join her on her trip to Philadelphia to face CIGNA. On board, will be myself (Duncan) and Andrew, who will be organizing our traveling basics, Lance who will be filming the trip, and Ryan who will assist Dawn with her medical needs. We came together knowing that we’re at a crucial moment for Dawn and for America. Dawn’s decision to make the journey to CIGNA to demand that she get the health care she deserves shows exactly the kind of resolve and bravery we need to make sure we care for the under- and uninsured of America.

Our trip will be guided by the generosity and kindness of the people who have reached out to help Dawn. Already we’re planning special stops across North Carolina and Virginia to connect with people who want to meet her and wish her well on the hard journey against CIGNA.

Tomorrow we’ll be setting off from Atlanta and traveling to Asheville, North Carolina, where MoveOn members and others have already prepared a warm welcome., opening their homes and offering to share their health care stories with us to aide Dawn’s fight. From there we travel East towards Charlotte and Raleigh, then into Virginia and up to DC. From there we’ll head into Philadelphia to make CIGNA own up to its broken promises and provide the health care Dawn deserves.