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.
View On The Road to CIGNA HQ in a larger map
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.