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How are we to deliver real access to healthcare to a nation when
the for-profit entities we rely on to care for us are
incentivized not to insure sick people,
pay claims, or provide services that
decrease profits? What is the
cost of this system in the
lives of real people?

H e a l t h c a r e  i n  t h e  U S

3.27.12 TBG Bearing Witness at US Supreme Court  



Athena Smith Ford

This healthcare painting series is dedicated to a remarkable social activist, and exceptional human being, Athena Smith Ford. At her young age, she mentored so many of us in the art of genuine listening and informed responding. Rest in peace, my dear friend.  Pennsylvania Health Access Network, a consumer advocacy group Athena helped launch, set up a memorial fund in her name. The fund will support the work of grassroots advocates in PA who are working to expand and protect access to healthcare. Donations can be made here. Thank you.


Bearing Witness


I could no longer pretend to myself. I could not "un-know" what I had learned interviewing my subjects. Their stories represent the struggles of millions. These stories and others moved me to exercise my First Amendment right of free speech. I “stood” with portraits and signs in front of the US Supreme Court and Capitol in Washington DC. to confront our representatives with the realities so many in this project face. 

Photo journal 

photo credit: K.Bleier, Getty Images

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 passed in 2010. The new healthcare law would not be 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 the for-profit health sector. The health insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies, and other players had backed the American public into a corner. Those with preexisting conditions or costly medical trauma are liabilities to insurance companies. Paying claims decreases profits. Drug prices are significantly higher in the US than in other countries. Certain lopsided for-profit market forces could be seen at work in the lives of real people who experience great difficulties accessing healthcare.

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