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.

From the Back of the RV After Atlanta

This morning Dawn began her journey for answers and reform on the steps of Atlanta’s capital building. Though the past few years of her life while waiting in Cigna’s health care limbo have been characterized by debilitating physical pain, Dawn spoke today about of a type of pain which no treatment, nor any arsenal of medication, could help to alleviate–the pain of being made to feel insignificant. This, she says, is what chips away at you.

It seems to me that one of the most basic desires of all human beings is to feel as if your life matters, as if someone cares about whether or not–and how–you exist. We need to be significant. Today I was reminded that policies which reject patients’ claims not only deny people life-changing medical treatment, but they also serve to steal that sense of “mattering” which we all deserve.

It must end now. Cigna’s indifference, the calloused disregard for life, and their complacency with prolonging human suffering cannot go on because, Dawn, your life is NOT insignificant. You matter. And I am confident that because you are sharing your story and calling out insurance companies on their dehumanizing way of business you are helping to usher in change. You are ensuring that no other American will feel as if her life is insignificant because she cannot receive the care she needs or because she must choose between paying rent or filling a prescription.

You and the millions of Americans who are under- or uninsured are not alone. We stand with you. And we will not allow big business to chip away at any more precious lives.

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.

When Was The Last Time You Roared?

“An Injured Lion Still Wants to Roar”

–       Dr. Randy Pausch

A brain tumor, like any illness, is hell on the body. Fighting insurance companies can test spirits with the strongest faith and constitution. The financial calamity and social isolation that ensue can be downright maddening.

Like so many of you, I know the health care that we seek—the health care I pay to receive—is not a privilege, but a right. My mother and I cling to this belief every time we appeal to CIGNA for testing and treatment. It keeps us going in the face of their callous denials.

This belief makes me want to roar.

No matter which side of health care reform debate you sit, people of good will avow that there are too many health care horror stories. These are not stories of people asking for handouts. Some of you are self-employed like me and working to keep your business and health insurance afloat. You might be one of the millions doing right by your employer and hoping your health care provider does right by you. Then, one diagnosis requires the support of the health insurance companies we work so hard to pay. In return for years of payment, denial letters, price increases and drop notices show up in our mailboxes.

It is time for us to become change agents. You can change my future and those of others who receive the same denial letters. The broken health care system forces us out of our careers, into medical bankruptcy and for the least fortunate of us…death.

It is time for us to roar.