2016 Election, Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry

Speaking Out in the Local Newspaper



Here’s what’s really at stake for health care on Election Day. A future where we can fix our new healthcare law so that sick people can get affordable insurance along with everyone else, or return to a health insurance system that will use every means possible not to insure sick people.

Antoinette Kraus, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network (PHAN) said, “Despite the progress we have made in getting more Pennsylvanians insured, we could not expect the Affordable Care Act to fix everything at once.  The rates announced by the Insurance Department today, which include average increases of 32.6 percent for individual plans and 7.1 percent for small group plans, are the result of years of insurance companies denying coverage and care to people who need treatment.”

Repealing the healthcare law would also be a blow to the deficit. In 2015 that Congressional Budget Office reported that repealing Obamacare would increase budget deficits by $353 billion over the next 10 years.

The Affordable Care Act was implemented to address a health insurance system that was leaving 50 million uninsured and 25 million under-insured. A 2012 Families USA study showed that more than 130,000 Americans died between 2005 and 2010 because they did not have health insurance. Imagine if 130,000 Americans died in plane crashes in a five-year period. Would we demand change?

I have spent the last 8 years interviewing people about how they access healthcare. I spent hours listening to people describe personal tragedies because there were no out-of-pocket limits before reform (even those today are still too high). Pregnancy was a preexisting condition. One young pregnant woman died because she could not get health care in time. Another subject’s family started selling jewelry at fairs, which they had no interest in doing. They schemed to form a corporation to qualify for “group” insurance as a way to get insurance for their sick dad who lost his insurance when he lost his job. He still had to pay a $2400/ month insurance premium. He was rationing his oxygen.

When I co-owned two small businesses I saw premiums rise 4 – 20% EVERY year for 12 years. We had no claims. There was no Obamacare then. We tried to control insurance premium costs by raising co-pays and increasing more out-of-pocket expenses. I worried I might be hiring “sick” people who would cause our premiums to rise if they actually used the insurance. I knew that if our small group had claims, the insurance companies would drive us out. The last conversation I had with my agent was about high deductible plans, which is the norm today. Strategies for cost-shifting to the consumers were well underway before Obamacare arrived.

Don’t blame the healthcare law for cost-shifting to the consumers. Blame sick people cutting into insurance companies’ profits.

What to do?

Bring back the public option in the law as originally drafted. Yale University professor describes the public option this way. “A public-insurance plan for working-age people that could compete with private insurers and use its bargaining power to push back against drug-makers, medical-device manufacturers, hospital systems and other health-care providers.” This is the impetus we need to put true competition back into the insurance markets. The insurance companies railed against the public option. The President agreed to strike it from the original law. A public option would force the insurance companies to compete with their very best rates.

Wendell Potter, former insurance executive, explains, “The truth: Because we have many private insurers, none of them—not even the big ones like Aetna—have enough leverage with drug companies and huge hospital systems to strike a decent bargain on behalf of their customers. Yet we continue to be deceived by industry propagandist like I used to be and hold as a tenet of faith that competition among our many insurers will somehow magically control costs.”

Trump’s mantra to “sell across state lines” is a throwaway line masquerading as policy. States can sell across state lines already. They would need to adhere to state regulations, set up doctor, hospital networks, etc. The insurance companies choose not to.

We need Hillary to get the public option back. Let’s keep so much that is working with the Affordable Care Act but rein in costs by giving the for-profit insurance companies some real competition with a public option.

Theresa BrownGold, Chalfont, is an artist/advocate who uses art as a tool to investigate social issues. She blogs at Art As Social Inquiry and the Huffington Post.

2014 Mailing

(image not included in original article)



Activist, art, art as social inquiry, Huffington Post, Police

I’m an Official Huffington Post Blogger! YEAH!

07/19/2016 05:40 pm ET | Updated Jul 19, 2016



Before everybody loses their sh*t over this painting about police brutality, know that art can ask big questions and stir strong emotions for a reason. Images bypass intellect, and can transport us into another’s world. Awakened and aware of another’s experience, we just might be moved to become part of the solution. Let’s help one another by being brave enough to understand one another. Art can help with that.

I ‘m spelling out my intentions behind the painting like a magician explaining how a trick works because we are all trudging through the emotional carnage of recent events. I’d rather you find meaning through your own experience of the image without me saying anything. But the nuanced leap from What’s that? to How do we make change? is near impossible with racial tensions fraying everyone’s nerves.

The police shootings of Alton Stering, Philando Castile, and now the bloodyretaliatory killings of 5 officers in Dallas and 3 in Baton Rouge leave us despaired. We’re rattled just being in public in stores, restaurants, malls, crowds, always wondering if violence will erupt.

The police brutality painting is about finding peace by way of a reality check. It is the first in a painting series that will examine all voices – victims, families, police, community. The art project is called Art As Social Inquiry. The painting of Alex Landau is from ASI’s  War / Violence series.


(Courtesy of the artist)

The years have brought different reactions to my activist art. “STFU you lyin’ OFA shill.” (What’s OFA? Had to Google it.) ”F*** YOU!!!!” sent in a private Facebook message meant to intimidate. In person, people were not so free with their taunts as I discovered in 2012 when I demonstrated in front of the US Supreme Court and Capitol in Washington DC. Debate about the new healthcare law raged at the time. I stood with signs and portraits from Art As Social Inquiry’s painting series,Healthcare in the US, to advocate for access to healthcare as a human right. I measured people’s disdain for my message by how loud they yelled. But hey, 1st Amendment, free speech and all that. My line is not easily crossed. I will tolerate a lot.


Through it all, though, I have never been censored. Until now.

The untitled painting of Alex Landau before and after a police beating he received in 2009, after being stopped for an alleged illegal left turn, was enough for Facebook to deny my request to “boost” the post, a paid promotion to augment a targeted audience.

I interviewed Alex for this portrait in 2015. The picture for the brutalized Alex in the painting is from a photo Alex insisted be taken before he would let doctors “treat my broken nose, multiple lacerations and serious head injuries including a massive hematoma, a concussion, and a hemorrhage in my right eye. It took 45 stitches to control the bleeding. A doctor with a PhD in neuropsychology later diagnosed the hidden damage — brain injury and PTSD.” Here is an excerpt from my interview with Alex.

Nixon (police officer) headed toward the trunk. I took a couple of steps forward with outstretched arms to signify no ill intent, and again asked to see a warrant. In response, Officers Middleton and Murr grabbed my hands and arms, and placed me in a restraint. I was obviously immobilized. Nixon looked at me and said, ‘You don’t have your license.’ He began punching me in the face. All three cops then began beating me with their fists, a police radio, and a police issue ‘Mag’ flashlight. I heard Murr yell, ‘He’s reaching for her gun.’ As I struggled just to breathe, I yelled with every ounce of energy, ‘No I’m not. No I’m not. I’m not reaching for anything.’

Paintings can make us feel what it might be like to suffer what the Alex-es of the world suffer. Others suffer, but we will not allow ourselves to empathize too much. Words, yes. But pictures, too upsetting. Social media honors those boundaries by censoring images like this painting.

What if we let ourselves feel and see others’ suffering? We just might have to answer the call to participate in finding solutions. Our shared humanity will demand it of us. Yes, it will. We will suffer a crisis of conscience if we don’t. So we avoid asking too many questions, and end up even more uncomfortable with circumstances and ourselves. Wanting to be part of the solution does not mean we abandon our lives for the cause.

Answering the call to act is personal. WE are the answer to the thoughts and prayers being offered after every human tragedy. WE are the instruments of change, large and small. One person’s march on Washington is another’s quiet admission at a cocktail party that she called her congresswoman to demand bad cops be removed from the force.

I paint Art As Social Inquiry’s paintings to help us find our bravery to be truthful with ourselves, and to encourage us to become change agents. Our success is not measured by how big we respond, but that we listen to our sweet inner voices reminding us of our beautiful shared humanity, and act accordingly.


art, art as social inquiry, awakening, book, God, jackrabbit, peace, portraits



I was meditating when my world shifted the way I imagine a person feels when she finds out her marriage was just part of her partner’s CIA cover. No. What? No. You are who? Who are you? And together we are? Not real. Then what is? A paradigm shift happened. Everything about life changed.

I saw…God?SELF-PORTRAIT no copyright

All stop. Whaaaaat??

Knowing. I looked at it. It looked at me. I knew what I was looking at. It knew that I knew.

God is a jackrabbit at once still, alert, waiting in the mind-blowing pause. Waiting for what? Would it slip between the slats chased away by my impatience or fear of the unknown, and become lost to me forever?

I stared. God stared back. I raised my arm like a stealth ladybug scaling the downspout, maintaining eye contact, and careful not to be the first to blink. Wait for it … wait, raise arm s-l-o-w-l-y… Gotcha! I clenched the jackrabbit’s neck, and held its face close to get a good look. God indulged me, held still, and smirked. “Your move.” What!?!? Friendly goading from God? (more…)

Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art, art as social inquiry, basement paintings, BrownGold, healthcare, portraits

The Basement Paintings


I did a bunch of paintings “in the basement,” a temporary space where I thought I’d work until I sorted out my studio situation. One day I just couldn’t see. No matter how much light I installed, I just could not “see.” Imagine coming out of an over-chlorinated pool with eyes burning, and sight blurry.PUBLISH GEN Basement Painting with copyright_edited-2PUBLISH Gen WITH copyright_edited-1I realized all the work I had done in the basement felt “strained.” I was missing all the nuances in observing a face. Although I still like the paintings as art, I do not feel they expressed what I wanted to say about my subject — now that I am painting in natural light. So I am repainting some of the subjects. Gen Rodrigez is one of those people. Read Gen’s full healthcare story here.  I don’t need to tell you which one was done in the basement.

PUBLISH Ilana WITH Copyright (2)PUBLISH Ilana with copyright_edited-1I got to know this subject, and realized I had not captured the beauty of a young resilient spirit who displays such grace, humor, and hope in the face of serious health problems. So I did a second painting. It did not help that I painted the first one in the basement. Ilana’s full healthcare story is hereYou can tell which one I painted in natural light.

Fred Basement PaintingFred as Old Guy
PUBLISH Fred WITH copyright_edited-1Poor Fred. He started as a basement painting that was so overworked I had to abandon the painting. (left) No soul left in it. Without proper light, I kept putting brush to canvas one too many times.  Next, out of the basement and into the light, I painted version #2 of Fred. He looked about 125 years old. I couldn’t put that painting in the Art As Social Inquiry project. Fred is still vital although he has had his struggles. So I painted version #3. I love the last version. Yeah, it’s quirky, I know.  But I like it.









art as social inquiry, Cickay, Congressman Fitzpatrick, McIlhinney, town halls

Artist Fires Back with Letters-to-the-Editor


Recent letters-to-the-editor prompted these rebuttals from me.


bucks herald logo 2Intelligencer-PB-logo

2014LTE Bucks Herald


We need more than image

Posted: Monday, September 1, 2014 12:15 am

Chief of Staff Athan Koutsiouroumbas recently dismissed as “partisan” a constituent/critic of his boss, Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick. This seems to be the go-to dismissal of anyone who is not drinking the Kool-Aid of the Congressman’s well-crafted PR campaign.

Rep Fitzpatrick presents himself as bipartisan to woo swing voters. But in 2013, by my calculations, he voted 73 percent of the time with what critics consider the extreme positions of the tea party. If we remove the Hurricane Sandy votes, his tally for extreme tea party positions is 78 percent. (TeaPartyScorecard.com. Footnoted analysis available.)

Rep. Fitzpatrick fueled the fires that led to a government shut down, and then capitulated when poll numbers were tanking. He allied himself with Paul Ryan to make Medicare a voucher system. He was not the voice of compromise when it came to the Affordable Care Act. The GOP issued drill commands. Obstruct a constitutional law no matter what. Our representative dutifully carried out his “partisan” marching orders.

One can object to the votes a representative takes. But when a representative makes a job out of presenting an image to the public that does not square with his voting record; when he does not openly discuss his votes at public meetings where his answers can be easily disseminated for the edification of all constituents; when he resorts to calling constituents “partisan” justifying a wave-of-the-hand dismissal, we have a GOP seat-holder whose job it is to campaign 24/7. He wants you to feel good about him and then pull the lever. You will never find this representative engaged in what I consider substantive public debate of the issues on the record.

Many times I have heard he is a nice guy and a hard worker. If he were running for the position of Nice Guy Hard Worker he’d have my vote. What one works hard on is what matters. Can we really afford another term of a representative selling us image? How about a hard core negotiator behind-the-scenes and in public who will challenge the GOP leadership to make meaningful compromises to move this country forward?

In these very contentious political times, our representative is out of his depth. We need a strong voice. Selling image is puff, not leadership.

Theresa BrownGold

Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art, art as social inquiry, book, BrownGold, Congress, Paris, US Capitol, US Supreme Court

The Making of an Accidental Advocate


 Introduction to a work-in-progress,


The Making of an Accidental Advocate  

Know this before I tell you my stories.

8.22.14 - 2-0001

The moodiness of Paris circa1973

1973. I was 19. In Paris working as an au pair, a babysitter.

Most American teenagers didn’t know about au pairs in the 1970s.  But the college dropouts looking for escape routes, some of us knew. We were the failures. We were banging against the psychological walls in our heads. We were suffocating in lives where the possibilities were out there. We were desperate to know. Know what? That’s just it. We didn’t know what we were so desirous to feel, but we knew it was out there – anywhere but here.  We took risks. We had nothing to lose.

People like that, like me, we somehow happened upon words like au pair, and latched onto them as our ticket to anywhere but here.

Even as s a teenager I owned my existential crisis by letting myself feel it — not that I had words for what I was doing, or the questions that consumed me.  What is this crazy planet I’m on? The hellacious suffering? The hatred? The killing? Disease? How did I get HERE? What’s with this God-business? So much hatred and prejudice in God’s name? A God? And after all that we die?  What the hell???  What is real?   What is real?

What is real? The asking was an admittance that I suspected that what I was seeing was not…real.  A record playing at the wrong speed. Something about life just wasn’t right. Why so much suffering?


Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, Congressman Fitzpatrick, town halls

Letter-to-Editor ~ Town Halls & Misleading Seniors


philly burbsIntelligencer-PB-logo

Posted: Monday, April 21, 2014 12:15 am

 A recent letter writer said that Congressman Fitzpatrick was having real town halls. I believe the writer refers to an August 2013 weekend.Two town halls were held: Aug. 2 in Springfield Township and Aug. 4 in Salford Township. The “No Labels” event was also held that weekend, which many did not consider a town hall.

There have been no town halls since the two in August 2013. And the staff did not tell me about them when I asked for the town hall schedule. Why not? I wanted to go.

You see, I have been trying to publicly address my congressman about his misstatements about the Affordable Care Act. I believe he has been scaring constituents for political reasons.

 For example, the congressman relies on seniors not knowing the difference between Medicare and the private, for-profit policies sold to seniors called “Medicare Advantage.”

The congressman says Medicare is being “cut,” and he is on the side of seniors. In fact, the opposite is true.

Medicare Advantage siphons money from traditional Medicare in the form of overpayments to private companies that sell the Medicare Advantage policies. The health care law looks to scale back these overpayments, characterized by the New York Times as “unjustified federal subsidies to the insurance companies.”

There are many examples like this where the congressman is not telling his constituents the whole story on an issue.

Let’s have as many town halls as the constituents want. We can discuss the public’s business for the benefit of everybody, not just individuals who meet privately.

Theresa BrownGold


Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry, Congressman Fitzpatrick, town halls

Oy Vey! A Photo, Mysterious Disappearing Article Again! AND Calkins News Edits Out Important Part of LTE


First an undated photo of me on the front page of our local newspaper. Then my response in a letter-to-the-editor with portion edited out that did not see print. And there is always the question, “Did our local press self-censor at our congressman’s request?” Welcome to 2014. Read on….

“The newspaper pulled a 2013 story critical of the congressman’s lack of town halls under questionable pretenses.  And now the editors print an undated photo that gives the reading public a false impression about the congressman holding real town halls.

These are just two instances in my personal experience where the congressman seems to be coddled by this newspaper.”

Our local newspapers, the Intelligencer and its sister paper, the Courier Times (part of Calkins News Group), recently recapped 2013 in their publications.

The article included this undated picture of me from 2011. I suppose my efforts to have real town halls with my congressman was topical? Oy Vey! Whatta picture!

Intel Pictures

But why run a 2011 photo of me at a town hall with no mention of my repeated and unsuccessful efforts to get to real town halls in 2013? (There was an event at a church that someone tipped me off about….Jeeesh, and that’s what we have to rely on in Pa-8?  Informants?)


Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry, Congressman Fitzpatrick, town halls

Congressman Fitzpatrick on One Long Press Junket


This letter-to-the-editor appeared in the Midweek Wire print edition. (No LTEs appear in the online edition.) 

The Midweek WireWire Logo


I have gone to the trouble of keeping a log of town halls in Rep. Fitzpatrick’s district for many months so I can attend a few to talk about my representative’s positions on the healthcare law. The congressman’s staff did not tell me about two that happened in August in Salford Township and Springtown when I asked. I read about them in the newspaper. There have been no real public town halls since then that I am aware of.

After months of keeping a log, I have observed how politics is played in PA-8.

Constituents who want to challenge the congressman on the issues are political liabilities to be avoided especially at public town halls.

I suspect this congressman and many other representatives do not want to be videoed talking to folks at real town halls.  They prefer events that are managed or staged where the dialog can be controlled. This, in turn, controls what the press sees. The press then feeds the congressman’s message to the general public.

At a real town hall, the congressman would be on the hot seat. He would have to answer for his statements on the healthcare law and his votes on the gov’t shut-down, for example.

We see the congressman visiting seniors, and tenderly talking to veterans. But he voted for Paul Ryan’s plan to alter Medicare by turning it into a voucher program that would hurt seniors.

And the veterans? The congressman uses every low-ball, incendiary Republican talking point about the healthcare law without regard to facts. Is he really working for the vets ? One out of every 10 vets will get health insurance because of the healthcare law.

So what is really going on in PA-8?

PA-8 is comprised of Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Pleasing them all is difficult.

I believe our congressman’s answer to this political conundrum is image.  Appear to be accessible by making many private appearances where challenges are less likely; avoid being challenged in public on the issues where substantive answers are required; and hope this strategy wins enough moderate voters to win an election.

Unfortunately, it seems that serving as US congressman for PA-8 in the House of Representatives has become one long press junket to keep a congressional seat.

Theresa BrownGold

Art As Social Inquiry

Affordable Care Act/Obamacare, art as social inquiry, BrownGold, Congressman Fitzpatrick, healthcare



Yours Truly has a guest opinion piece in our local paper, The Intelligencer, rebutting PA-8 representative Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick’s ideas about reforming healthcare.  


With health care law repeal, many consumer protections would disappear

By Theresa BrownGold

Constituents familiar with my art and advocacy work often send me letters about health care they receive from our congressman, Mike Fitzpatrick. In some letters, the congressman mixes unhelpful talking points with his less well-known proposals. At times, the congressman even makes a strong case for Obamacare, albeit unwittingly.

The congressman says he wants to retain some of Obamacare’s consumer protections, such as keeping children on their parents’ policies until age 26 and providing coverage to those with pre-existing conditions (guaranteed issue). Who doesn’t? These goodies, however, need to be paid for.DSC_0313

We can expect heavy lobbying by insurance companies to send this notion of guaranteed issue without an individual mandate (everybody participates) straight to Mars. Based on our current for-profit model of delivering health insurance, insurance companies would not agree to insure all the sick people without the healthy. And if the congressman proposes giving private insurance companies extra money to cover sick people, we’d be promoting a system that encourages people not to get too well so they can keep their insurance.

By flirting with the notion of saving some of Obamacare’s consumer protections, the congressman should then list the consumer protections he’d discard by having the law repealed.

Here are just a few: no copays for preventive services, no dropping of coverage if you become ill (rescission), no more charging more for women, no more annual or lifetime caps on coverage and no more referrals for ob-gyn. Would our congressman get rid of accountable care organizations and medical homes that reward providers for outcomes, or the prescription drug benefit saving seniors billions (“closing the doughnut hole”)? How about transparency rules on the exchanges (easy to understand policies), telling the insurance companies they have to spend at least 80 cents of every dollar on actual care, requiring an outside agency to review exorbitant premium hikes, the SHOP exchange for small businesses, a limit to out-of-pocket expenses, essential health benefits (insurance policies can’t be too skimpy), subsidies to help lower-wage earners afford insurance and freedom from “job-lock” (stuck in a job for the insurance)?

And how would the congressman propose paying to repeal the Affordable Care Act? The Congressional Budget Office’s latest report says repealing the health care law would actually raise the deficit $109 billion over 10 years.PUBLISH

The congressman advocates selling insurance across state lines. This is an exceptionally bad idea. Insurance companies would set up in states with the fewest regulations and then be able to sell their skimpy policies to anyone in the country for cheap. Individual states’ insurance regulations and consumer protections would become null and void. He would, essentially, be nationalizing a new low standard for insurance coverage, squeezing states’ regulations out of the picture. Please note an insurance company can sell in any state now if it wishes to go through a state’s licensing process.

The congressman supports association health plans, where small businesses band together for greater purchasing power. What’s to stop businesses from doing that now? Chambers of commerce, guilds and associations have been offering insurance at group rates to their members for years. Furthermore, a business must shoulder the cost of joining that association before being allowed to purchase its group insurance. As far back as 2011, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reported employer-based coverage has been dropping precipitously. That trend has not changed, even though group insurance through associations has long been available.

Obamacare, on the other hand, takes this idea of pooling purchasing power by establishing small-business exchanges called SHOP. Small businesses will be able to go to the online marketplaces and buy group policies with the purchasing power of large businesses. Small businesses have been paying about 18 percent more than larger businesses for group insurance. SHOP looks to remedy this disparity.ASI PHOTOS OF ALL PAINTINGS

Congressman Fitzpatrick is an advocate for tort reform as a way to end the practice of expensive defensive medicine. Ten years after Texas passed tort reform, doctors are seeing their malpractice premiums drop, but more people are not able to buy insurance and get health care. The notion that tort reform will cause premiums to fall, thereby giving millions of uninsured folks access to health insurance, has been debunked by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2003, Texas held the top spot with 25 percent of its population uninsured. Ten years after tort reform, Texas still claims that dubious honor.

Theresa BrownGold, New Britain Township, is a portrait painter and uses her art to start dialogue around social issues. As a Pennsylvania Health Access Network certified trainer, she gives presentations about the Affordable Care Act.


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