02.23.09

Whitehouse’s Call for Health Care Stories Draws Statewide Response

Senator Shares Rhode Islanders’ Messages on the Senate Floor

Washington, D.C. - Just days after U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) unveiled an online Health Care Storyboard for Rhode Islanders to share their stories about our broken health care system, more than 60 responses have already come in from all across the Ocean State. Reflecting a broad spectrum of ages and backgrounds, the stories are a powerful testament to the urgent need for reform.

Today, Whitehouse took to the Senate floor to read some of these messages, making these Rhode Islanders' expressions of anger and concern a permanent part of the Senate record.

"My father is a Medicare recipient; he is an older adult with a wide variety of health issues," said Amanda, a Providence resident. "My family and I live with constant worry that he will lose certain benefits... It is frustrating and painful that in his last few years with us we have to spend so much time worrying about his healthcare access."

Maggie in Johnston wrote: "I'm self-employed and am unable to afford health insurance. My business partner finally had to drop hers. It was costing her $1,000 a month."

Carol, of West Kingston, said: "I am faced with the option of providing health insurance for myself or food on the table for my family ... I decided to opt out of COBRA. I am taking a risk being a cancer survivor but what else can I do?"

Several others simply wrote: "Please help."

Whitehouse launched the storyboard last Sunday at a community dinner at the Tri-Cities Elks Lodge in Warwick. More than 200 people turned out to speak to him about their frustrating experiences with health care, and share their ideas for improvement. One of them, Lauren Goddard from Providence, will be Whitehouse's guest tomorrow evening at President Barack Obama's first address to Congress.

Whitehouse said he hoped to use the stories he's heard to help build momentum for health reform, and to help legislators in Washington understand the impact it would have on people throughout Rhode Island and the nation.

"If anyone believes we can afford to wait to fix the health care system, that this is not an urgent, crisis-level problem for the people of this country, I urge them to listen to what these Rhode Islanders had to say," he said. "These Rhode Islanders, Lauren and everyone else who came to our dinner in Warwick, need us to listen. They need us to hear their stories. And they need us to get it - and to do something about it."

Dozens of community dinner attendees filled out storyboard forms that first night, and stories have continued flowing in via the web. Rhode Islanders wishing to view these stories or share their own experiences are encouraged to visit Whitehouse's Senate website at http://whitehouse.senate.gov/storyboard.

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