Art As Social Inquiry

Health Care in the United States

11.18.09

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Artist’s Note: In 2008 when I took on the subject of accessing healthcare as my focus of “social inquiry,” I did not see the big picture. Healthcare reform had not yet passed. (The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010 and not fully implemented until 2014) I was learning with every portrait story. I began to see how a person’s health insurance status fit into this puzzle the for-profit industry had crafted. The health insurance industry had backed the American public into a corner. Those with preexisting conditions or costly medical trauma were liabilities to insurance companies. Paying claims decreased profits. (Simply, certain lopsided for-profit market forces could be seen at work in the lives of real people who experienced great difficulties accessing healthcare or managing claims.) And how were we to deliver access to healthcare to a nation when the entities we relied on to insure us were incentivized not to insure sick people, pay claims or perform any functions that decreased profits?  And what was the cost of this perverse system in real life?

 I will from time to time comment on those puzzle pieces that represent real lives.  I will include in the “artist’s notes” observations I made from listening to so many people tell me how they access healthcare.  And, occasionally, I will discuss the healthcare law, The Affordable Care Act a.k.a. Obamacare, which I have come to know well since I had to understand it to know how the law would affect the people whose portraits I painted.

A LINK to PHOTO JOURNAL of my time in front of the US SUPREME COURT & CAPITOL in Washington DC. I exercised my First Amendment right of free speech by “standing” with PORTRAITS and SIGNS to confront our representatives with the realities so many in this project face.

This is a series of what will be 100-plus paintings depicting a cross-section of Americans. The titles of the paintings designate the kind of health insurance coverage or lack of coverage the sitters have. The goal is to paint a picture of the American health care system in the faces of our country’s citizens from the very best health coverage to the most horrific of circumstances resulting from a person’s lack of coverage. Who are we when it comes to health care? Let’s not be afraid to look at real people and be touched by their experiences – from the best to the worst – as we navigate this very big issue. There is no agenda but to ask, “What’s your experience? What are your thoughts on the subject?”