I saw a new Harry and Louise ad last night, sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry.

But they weren't scared of health care reform this time. In fact, they were hoping it will happen.


I mean, wow.

The proposed legislation isn't perfect, but it is a start. I just want to see steps in the right direction. Let's get health care to more people. Let's get diagnostic tests to people at risk of illness and then treat those illnesses before it's too late to save people's lives.

It makes sense to keep people healthy, to treat illnesses early. Mike would be a taxpayer now if he'd gotten treatment in time.

I'm with Harry and Louise. Let's fix this mess now.

When the Senate HELP Committee (Health Education Labor & Pensions) voted on health care reform the other day, it was pretty clear who they represented. The more campaign money they accepted from the health care industry, the more likely they were to oppose the plan.

Check out http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2009/07/help-committee-members-opposin.html for an analysis and a chart showing how much each committee member got from each arm of the industry.

The influence of lobbyists is pretty clear, and if we don't stand up and tell Congress what we want, they're going to listen to the moneyed interests.

I'm just saying ...

We're on vacation this week, visiting friends and family. Our last stop was Matt and Shannon's new house in Rhode Island. Shannon was Mike's favorite cousin, and Mike and Matt took to each other as soon as they met. Matt often drove Mike to chemo at Duke, more than an hour from where he lived in Fayetteville, NC, and the two of them loved t play around on computers and other "guy things." One of my favorite photos is of Mike holding little LIam just after he was born, with Matt standing proudly nearby. Shannon calls it, "My Three Men."

Matt asked me if I still talk to Mike, and I said I do sometimes.

"I talk to Mike a lot," he said, "especially when I'm in the kitchen and I do something stupd. I know he sees me and laughs at me then."

Mike is still with us in a lot of ways. You can still make Cassie laugh by barking at her the way Mike did when she was acting shy.

Sometimes I can still hear his laugh when something happens that I know would amuse him.

I go through my life, day by day, sometimes moment by moment, missing him.  Some moments it's closer to the surface than others. I told Robbo tonight that there's before that moment when he died and after that moment, and I'd give my life to go back before that moment to tell him I love him just one more time, to hear his laugh, to hear him belch and wait for me to say, "Bless you."

I talk to him too, mostly to tell him I love him and I miss him and I will never, ever get over losing him.




The Washington Post calls it a record-breaking effort to influence lawmakers -- a $1.4 million PER DAY effort. Think about how many people that much money could help with health care bills. That was more than it cost to treat Mike -- once he finally was diagnosed.

That would pay to reomodel a dozen or more homes for soldiers coming home with spinal injuries.

It could pay for diabetes supplies for hundreds of people for the rest of their lives.

Instead, it goes to pay former staff members and friends of Congress who are lobbying for the moneyed interests and not for improvements in health care for the 52 million Americans who have none.

Sen. Max Baucus, who leads the committee charged with writing the health reform legislation, says having former members of his staff lobbying him for the interests of big business doesn't sway his opinion. I say that's pretty hard to believe. If a former coworker of mine -- someone I trusted -- called and wanted to express an opinion, I'd be far more likely to listen to that person than someone I don't know.

$1.4 million every single day.

This is why we have to be heard. Take time today to write, call e-mail or fax your lawmakers. You have to be really loud to be heard over that kind of money.


As everyone wrangles with health reform legislation, let's also talk about ways we can reduce our own risk of getting sick.

Apparently some of us need some real motivation to live healthier lives. Here at the Asheville Citizen-Times, people who smoke cigarettes are charged more for health insurance than people who don't. I'm just waiting for them to start charging people whose body-mass index is above a certain point.

A study earlier this week found more Americans than ever are overweight or obese, even knowing the risks it poses to health.

I'm overweight and I know it increases my risk for diabetes and certain types of cancer and causes extra wear on my joints. I am active -- I ride my bike a couple times a week, walk, hike, take the stairs most of the time, work in the yard, go to the YWCA once in awhile.

But I'm still overweight.

I don't want to be forced by the government to give up chocolate, but our society doesn't make it very easy to get exercise. I work for one of the few newspapers that's still downtown. Most of the other papers I've worked for have been on four-lane highways where it's not even safe to drive, nevermind walk.

Suburban sprawl makes it nearly impossible to walk to the market for a lot of Americans.

Most employers don't help workers pay for gym membership or install workout equipment in a room set aside for employees.

One of the most successful programs I've ever been involved in was a competition between employers where we registered and then kept track of how many minutes we exercised. It was more about moving than it was about weight, but I lost 20 pounds.

Here in Asheville we have Lighten up 4 Life, a competition that begins in January and winds up with a 5K in June. People lose weight and become more fit.

The big health care corporations aren't the only reason we're one of the sickest industrialized nations in the world.

We can, as individuals, stop eating fast food so often, stop using tobacco, stop drinking so much soda, walk more and take the stairs whenever it's appropriate.

This is not the ultimate solution; it will not make access to care when we need it any easier, but it may help reduce the need for care.