My Mom, The Terrorist (at a Pennsylvania Health Care Town Meeting)

I’ve tried not to pay attention to the vitriol coming from the right wing at these health care “town meetings”. Really. I thought, they’re bitter, they’re angry that Obama won, and they won’t make that much of a difference in the end. See, I’m an eternal optimist.

But then they started messin’ with my mom. Literally.

Let me back up. My mother has been working in health care for over 30 years. Way back in 1980, my mom and dad started an independent pharmacy in Pennsylvania. Quickly, it became busy with patients with specific requests, no chain would fulfill, like specially made compounds for chemotherapy patients, hard to find medications for patients in dire need, and the general community. My parents knew everyone’s name, what they needed, and asked about their families. My father drove to the pharmacy on Sundays, to pick up and deliver medications to cancer patients, the terminally ill, and elderly patients having trouble getting around on their own.

This kind of service wasn’t available at Walmart. Or Kinney’s. Or CVS.

My father was the pharmacist. My mother managed the bills, insurance, and worked in the pharmacy. She spent countless hours on the phone, arguing with insurance personnel, many who identified patients as numbers and wanted to deny coverage for medication. Cancer patients, dying patients, the terminally ill, it didn’t matter. To them, it was more about money. To my parents, these were real people, who mattered, and who needed help.

When my father died, my mother and a close family friend who was a pharmacist continued to run the store. Faced with mail order pharmacies and Walmart, this was not an easy task. But they kept the same commitment to patients, taking the time to answer questions, discuss medications and options, and help them understand their insurance coverage.

My mother has written letters to the editor about health care, and she has met with her state Representatives to discuss new health care and prescription legislation.

And when she tried to go to a town hall meeting in her town about Obama’s health care initiative, she was turned away. The people who got in?

A huge bus of people from out of town, funded by a right wing group with slick, pre-printed signs and talking points.

When my mom took pictures of the bus with “Hands off My Healthcare” on the side, and the pile of signs they were handing out, a representative of this group asked her if she wanted to sign a petition.

My mom said, no, I work in healthcare and think we need reform.

And that is when this man called my mom a terrorist. She was dumbfounded. Here is my mom, a hardworking woman who has spent her life helping people in her small, independent pharmacy, insulted on the street.

Now, my mom read that someone brought a gun to one of the New Hamsphire rallies. She was intimidated, and quickly left with her colleague (a pharmacist).

How is this democracy? When two local citizens, both amply experienced in health care, can’t get in to a meeting about health care reform? When they are intimidated from merely being there, and snapping a few pictures at a well funded, right wing operation that is slinging misinformation?

These people are obviously just angry that Obama won the election, and they will shoot themselves in the foot (ie: their own health care), before doing anything that would help him. Even when it will benefit themselves and their families. It is just baffling.

And “government run health care”? How many of those folks are on medicare, Medicaid or veteran’s care? That is government run health care! Do they want big corporations running that? Since that has gone so well in the past, particularly with the mega banks? Visit to see what the CEOs of the major health insurance companies make (in one case, 800,000 bucks day).

So I have to pay attention. They went and dragged my mom, of all people, into this. We can’t sit by while they sabotage the dregs of what is left of real reform. Speak out against misinformation. Tell your friends and family. Show up at these meetings, and demand civil discourse. My mom should have been heard. She knows what she is talking about. We need people like her in this conversation.

For some real facts about health care:

*From the New York Times

*From the Whitehouse, with video explanations

*Why health care reform is particularly important for women, from the National Women’s Law Foundation.

And lastly, for some much needed humor about this (although right now I don’t feel like laughing), watch this.

Please tweet this and link to this post on facebook. I think people should know what is happening at these meetings.

image: from my mom by cellphone, at the Pennsylvania town hall meeting where she was called at terrorist

14 Responses to My Mom, The Terrorist (at a Pennsylvania Health Care Town Meeting)

  1. Lisa Sharp August 14, 2009 at 5:57 am #

    As a Libertarian and registered Republican I'm sickened by the parties actions lately. I would register third party at this point but can't in Oklahoma.I'm going to share this with people. I'm so sick of all of the fear mongering and flat out lies!

  2. Mindful Momma August 14, 2009 at 6:06 am #

    Your Mom deserves a standing ovation, not a slap on the hand from some right-wing meanie. Thanks for sharing their story.

  3. mother earth aka kar August 14, 2009 at 6:17 am #

    what a passionate sharing and great exampling of the contrast between one perspective verses anotheri bet the look on your mom's face when she was called a terrorist was priceless

  4. Jennifer Taggart, Th August 14, 2009 at 7:50 am #

    Your mom is exactly the type of person needed to participate in the debate. I hope she continues to speak out, as well all should.

  5. Anonymous August 14, 2009 at 8:48 am #

    "They are just mad Obama won" so they don't agree what he is doing now. Well, that pretty much goes without saying. You act like it was a popularity contest. They didn't agree with his views and policies or they would have voted for him. So yeah, obviously, they aren't going to be in agreement with a large part of the changes he will propose?!And the fact that Oklahoma won't allow write in's or 3rd party votes is just fundamentally wrong. We have the freedom to vote for who we want to be president……as long as its one of these two dolts we allow you to choose from? Just asinine.Just a thought, would your father have wanted the government to tell him how much he could/couldn't sell his medicine for? Or that he had to sell for less to certain people..etc. Those things which would have affected how you grew up (income). What these people are saying is no one should. It is just the choice of a government or a big business run world? How about being responsible for ourselves.

  6. Katy's mom August 14, 2009 at 11:54 am #

    Anonymous,You are mistaken about Rx drug pricing. Over 95% of our prescriptions are paid by insurance and Medicare and Medicaid. The insurance companies tell us what they will pay for the drug and if we don't think it is fair, we have no choice except to drop out of that insurance plan. Hard to do when 2 or 3 insurance plans dominate a market. So it is take it or leave it with these huge companies. And with certain plans sometimes we are reimbursed under our actual cost. I would rather deal with the government since I can always go to my elected representatives if the payment is unfair. With the huge insurance companies, no one cares or will ever answer your calls or letters. Most of the time you are dealing with a person who knows nothing about medicine. Wonder how those mega insurance companies like Humana and Aetna pay their CEOs hundreds of millions every year. By denying claims, that's how.

  7. Katy's mom August 14, 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    I should have added one more thought. I will always listen to all sides of an issue if everyone has accurate information and is polite and repectful…not calling people names like terrorists or dolts. Or yelling while other people are trying to discuss the issue.

  8. Anna (Green Talk) August 14, 2009 at 8:02 pm #

    Katy, wonderful story. I love the compassion your parents bestowed upon their customers. It is something that everyone (including the mega insurance companies) could learn. We are all numbers to the insurance companies and if we want to hear the truth, we should be listening to people like your mom. Perhaps do a post with your mom of how she thinks what health reform should look like. I would enjoy it.

  9. Anonymous August 15, 2009 at 9:43 pm #

    Katy, Great story and we should be encouraged by the increasing presence we are now having in these townhall meetings. Several friends of ours are taking vans and attending these meetings while getting paid to do it (although they would do it for free, they need the money cause they are out of work). For those who want to get involved in this work, you need to search the web for progressive sites that promote national healthcare. They can give you the details of where to meet and how you can get a ride to the events and how much you will be paid. We try to turn around the intimidation back on those awful republicans

  10. Mike Farber August 17, 2009 at 8:27 am #

    I think I'm pretty well-positioned to speak to the question of what my father would have thought about the current state of our health care system and the prospect of government reform. He would have been appalled at the extent to which insurance companies have viewed pharmacy services as commodity services and have offered prices that reflect this. There's a reason why my sister's original post detailed all of the things that our parents did for their customers/patients. Patients of all types needed these services. These were NOT commodity services – the model of pharmacy services used by my parents reflected the fact that everyone who walked through the front door was both a patient and a customer. The pharmacy was much more than a medicine dispensing system – it was a place that a patient could receive counsel, support, and, hopefully in a lot of instances – a laugh as well. Most insurance companies have a different view of pharmacies – and that is a shame because the patients are the ones that lose out. Health care reform is needed on so many fronts that it is simply impossible to say what my father would have thought about all of the issues. But I do know he would have supported any changes that would allow pharmacies and other health care providers to treat patients with the attention and care that each they deserve.

  11. WordyDoodles August 17, 2009 at 3:38 pm #

    Katy, thanks so much for your thoughtful, personal post. And please give your mom a huge, huge thank you and hug for being so brave and strong in living out her values through her work! It's inspiring.Thanks, too, for sharing these resources on the facts. I work for and we are working hard to spread the facts. We appreciate what you're doing!

  12. Alice August 18, 2009 at 4:14 pm #

    I'm so sorry to hear about your mother and her experience at the rally. Bad things are happening at those rallies, but just like not every Muslim is an extremist or a terrorist, not every conservative agrees with those people on that bus. My mom is in the health care industry as well. She works behind a desk and fights with those insurance companies all the time. Health care reform is so desperately needed. That's true. What the government is proposing is not the answer though. The only people I know who are currently part of a government-run health care system that seem to be for it are from Norway. Canadians have horror stories of rationed treatment and weeks of waiting for stints when they have heart problems (although they have better prices on drugs). Most of the wealthy people in those systems come to America for treatment. Medicare and Medicaid are miserable programs as well, which is why so many of those people opt for additional coverage when they can afford it. You know it's bad when congress won't even agree to sign a bill that requires them to use the very health care they propose. Get them to sign that bill and I might consider their program.

  13. Katy's mom August 19, 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    Medicare a miserable program?Ask most Medicare recipients and they will tell you that they are very happy with that program. In fact many people at the rallies are shouting "keep the government out of my Medicare", pretty funny since Medicare is run by the government. When Medicare was set up in the 1960s, it just was hospital insurance, then they started Part B which pays for doctors appointments, labs tests, etc and they take a very small amount out of your Social Security for that. Then Part D was passed for drug coverage and patients need to buy that supplement but those who can't afford it get covered for free. All in all it is very well run and only 3% of Medicare spending goes to administration versus 20% or more in private insurance plans. Medicaid works well too but the states have more control over that spending so it can vary from state to state. In Pa, Medicaid covers more than most private insurance and you don't have to jump through hoops to get procedures approved as we must with private companies. Sure it is a bureaucracy and has its problems but so do the huge insurance companies.About other countries universal health plans, of course there will be some problems but if you actually talk to people instead of getting third hand information, you will discover that they are amazed that the US does not guarantee healthcare for all its citizens. Stephen Hawkings just wrote an article about how he would not be alive today without the British National Health Plan. Canadians, French, etc all have minor complaints but the majority are happy that they have universal coverage. In one of the five bills floating around Congress there is an option that all of us could buy into the federal employees health plan that members of Congress have. Not sure which bill but I know that President Obama wanted to offer that plan along with a public option.


  1. Public Discourse and Health Care « Pieces of My Mind - August 19, 2014

    […] and intimidation are in full-force. Civil discussion has been replaced by calling one another terrorists, Nazi symbols and analogies, and death threats (and no, it was not any more acceptable when it was […]

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