Pedal Story> Anne Winkler Morey> Interview with San Francisco health care activist

WAMM members Anne Winkler-Morey and her husband David are making 420 day bike adventure with social and historical commentary.  Their stories are documented on Facebook on Pedal Story.  From San Francisco, Anne took a break to go to the east coast.  (David came to Minneapolis, where we heard him talk about their trip!)  They are back on their trip now, and here is Anne’s latest interview.  They also have a blog. For their blog, click here.

 April 2: Interview with San Francisco health care activist.

A funny thing happened coming into Brooklyn on the A train, night of March 22. I met Barbara Commins, age 66, who was visiting her son in Brooklyn for a few days. As we shared notes on how to get to our subway stop, and how exciting it is to visit our 20-somthings in the big-Apple, I also learned that she was a health care activist… in San Francisco! We exchanged phone numbers and this morning, on the other side of the country, I interviewed her.

Barbara became a nurse “because I didn’t have many choices. I went to community college and it was nurse or secretary.” She wanted to go to the peace corps and nursing made that possible. Today she works at San Francisco State University, in student health service.

“ I have never regretted going into nursing. It is multifaceted work. There is always something new.”

Sixteen years ago she was working with an allergist, assisting patients with severe allergies and asthma. It was then that she learned how expensive inhalers were; too much for many of her patients to afford. She was supposed to be spending her time assisting patients in a broad spectrum of therapies. Instead she spent ½ her time processing paperwork to get patients assistance so they could get an inhaler. A favorite patient died during an asthma attack.

“That was the catalyst for me. I have spent that last 16 years working for universal health care.”

In the late 1990s she joined the California Universal Health Care Project. Today the group is called Single Payer Now.

“What that means, is that everyone has Medicare. There is no insurance. No middleman expenses and profits. Government would be able to negotiate for better drug prices. We won’t have people who have health care and those who don’t.

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“Today there is a living case study, in Libby Montana. The entire community has been exposed to asbestos poisoning as a result of mining practices there. Since 2010, as a result of the new health care law, the entire community has Medicare. We are watching closely to see how this live experiment works.”

“Universal health care would have to be phased in. The current estimate of time is 15 years. There are two reasons for this:

1. The infrastructure is not there. We would need to build some clinics and retool others.
2. There is a scarcity of primary care doctors. Most MDs want to be specialists. One plan is recruit doctors by forgiving Med. school costs for a certain number of primary care years.”

I asked Barbara about how her group organizes.

“It is very grassroots”. What she does varies: calling people to rallies, organizing mailings, and neighborhood meetings. They are working on trying to get bills passed in the California state legislature.

“I don’t think it is a partisan issue. If everyone dropped their Democratic and Republican labels we could get something done. “
Barbara said organizing in San Francisco right now is not easy. It is hard to get people motivated to take action.

Barbara is concerned that our current health care system, with its focus on profit, cannot meet human needs. We don’t make the right decisions about health care needs when profit is involved. She carries around a fact sheet that shows how many billions are made on the stock market by people investing in pharmaceuticals and insurance companies.

How will we pay for Medicare for all?
“Increase payroll tax for Medicare. Tax stock sales. Pass a sur-tax for those making over 250,000. Unfortunately we are a tax adverse society. In this country you say the word taxes and your plans is dead in the water.”

To Barbara, there are other issues that affect quality of life that we are ignoring in our desire to avoid taxes. Like people working that should not be, in order to have health insurance. People like her daughter who works full time and has a little one at home she would like to spend more time with, but the family needs health insurance. Some of us would be healthier if we didn’t work so much…

On this issue she is a one woman crusader. Her organization has not embraced a campaign to divorce work from health care.

I asked Barbara about how health care fits into the larger spectrum of neglected human needs, and how she deals with those who feel another issue (education, environment) is more important.

“It’s about the Common Good. It’s about how much we care about each other to promote the common good, be it education, child care, road repair.…”

April 2: Interview with San Francisco health care activist.

A funny thing happened coming into Brooklyn on the A train, night of March 22. I met Barbara Commins, age 66, who was visiting her son in Brooklyn for a few days. As we shared notes on how to get to our subway stop, and how exciting it is to visit our 20-somthings in the big-Apple, I also learned that she was a health care activist… in San Francisco! We exchanged phone numbers and this morning, on the other side of the country, I interviewed her.

Barbara became a nurse “because I didn’t have many choices. I went to community college and it was nurse or secretary.” She wanted to go to the peace corps and nursing made that possible. Today she works at San Francisco State University, in student health service.

“ I have never regretted going into nursing. It is multifaceted work. There is always something new.”

Sixteen years ago she was working with an allergist, assisting patients with severe allergies and asthma. It was then that she learned how expensive inhalers were; too much for many of her patients to afford. She was supposed to be spending her time assisting patients in a broad spectrum of therapies. Instead she spent ½ her time processing paperwork to get patients assistance so they could get an inhaler. A favorite patient died during an asthma attack.

“That was the catalyst for me. I have spent that last 16 years working for universal health care.”

In the late 1990s she joined the California Universal Health Care Project. Today the group is called Single Payer Now.

“What that means, is that everyone has Medicare. There is no insurance. No middleman expenses and profits. Government would be able to negotiate for better drug prices. We won’t have people who have health care and those who don’t.
“Today there is a living case study, in Libby Montana. The entire community has been exposed to asbestos poisoning as a result of mining practices there. Since 2010, as a result of the new health care law, the entire community has Medicare. We are watching closely to see how this live experiment works.”

“Universal health care would have to be phased in. The current estimate of time is 15 years. There are two reasons for this:

1. The infrastructure is not there. We would need to build some clinics and retool others.
2. There is a scarcity of primary care doctors. Most MDs want to be specialists. One plan is recruit doctors by forgiving Med. school costs for a certain number of primary care years.”

I asked Barbara about how her group organizes.

“It is very grassroots”. What she does varies: calling people to rallies, organizing mailings, and neighborhood meetings. They are working on trying to get bills passed in the California state legislature.

“I don’t think it is a partisan issue. If everyone dropped their Democratic and Republican labels we could get something done. “
Barbara said organizing in San Francisco right now is not easy. It is hard to get people motivated to take action.

Barbara is concerned that our current health care system, with its focus on profit, cannot meet human needs. We don’t make the right decisions about health care needs when profit is involved. She carries around a fact sheet that shows how many billions are made on the stock market by people investing in pharmaceuticals and insurance companies.

How will we pay for Medicare for all?
“Increase payroll tax for Medicare. Tax stock sales. Pass a sur-tax for those making over 250,000. Unfortunately we are a tax adverse society. In this country you say the word taxes and your plans is dead in the water.”

To Barbara, there are other issues that affect quality of life that we are ignoring in our desire to avoid taxes. Like people working that should not be, in order to have health insurance. People like her daughter who works full time and has a little one at home she would like to spend more time with, but the family needs health insurance. Some of us would be healthier if we didn’t work so much…

On this issue she is a one woman crusader. Her organization has not embraced a campaign to divorce work from health care.

I asked Barbara about how health care fits into the larger spectrum of neglected human needs, and how she deals with those who feel another issue (education, environment) is more important.

“It’s about the Common Good. It’s about how much we care about each other to promote the common good, be it education, child care, road repair.…”

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