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Medicare for All.
Everybody In. Nobody Out.


Examples of suicides resulting from
stress due to medical bills


Sally Brown  —

Published: Jan. 18, 2008 3:00 a.m.

Why did a 50-year-old woman throw herself off freeway overpass?

Some blame Sally Brown for putting others at risk when she committed suicide on the 91 [highway] on Jan. 10. But the Anaheim woman, ill and uninsured, saw killing herself as her way out.


ANAHEIM - The drone of car tires on a 91 freeway overpass is clearly audible from the open window of Sally Brown’s bedroom. The 50-year-old Anaheim woman used to sit on her bed near a stack of discarded oxygen tanks, listening to it.

On Jan. 10, she left her room, drove to the top of that overpass and threw herself off.

Brown’s suicidal act and its bloody aftermath shocked and distressed more than her family. Commuters unable to stop as Brown’s body hurtled to earth must live with the trauma of what they saw - or were forced to do.

Cars skidded and crashed to avoid impact with Brown’s body. Others could not stop, leaving Brown’s corpse dismembered and unrecognizable. Still other drivers are haunted by witnessing the head-first dive of a woman whose grief - even at a distance - seemed carved on her face.

"I saw it play by play," says Carol Brandt, who was traveling to Corona when Brown leapt from the East La Palma overpass. "I saw her get out and, at the point of her leaping, I saw her face. It was a facial expression like, ‘I just don’t want to deal with this anymore.’

"It made me feel like: Was there no one there for her? Society - we couldn’t help her."

Brown may have felt the same way. Stricken with asthma, emphysema and congestive heart failure, the chestnut-haired mother of two and grandmother of one had been given little more than a year to live by her doctors.

Her life - hooked to an oxygen tank, unable to work at the job she loved - was misery. At the time of her death, Brown’s lungs were riddled with holes. She was able to use just 16 percent of her lungs, according to her youngest son, Kenny Brown. Every breath was an agony.

Then there were the medical bills piling at her door, the insurance company that dropped her, the disability that ran out, the lung transplant she couldn’t afford, the divorce from a beloved husband.

In the last days of her life, "It was one thing after another," said Kenny Brown, 26. "Everything was caving in on her."

Including, her family says, the system itself.


Kenny Brown says his mother’s medical condition was diagnosed five years ago. A lifelong, pack-a-day smoker, Brown immediately quit.

It did not slow the course of the illness. Brown’s breathing became labored. She found it hard to climb stairs. She was eventually forced to carry oxygen tanks and the tubes that hooked to her nostrils embarrassed her. She felt people were staring at her. Eventually, she stopped going out in public.

"Years ago she said, ‘I’m not going to be one of those people walking around with an oxygen tank. It’s not going to happen to me,’ " Kenny Brown said. "And it did happen to her."

Last March, Brown’s doctor told her she needed to leave her job as the assistant manager at the Starbucks store on North Tustin Street and East Meats Avenue in Orange. She would also need a double lung transplant, he said.

Kenny Brown said his mother took disability last March and began the seven- to nine-month process of testing and paperwork that might qualify her to get on the lung transplant list at UCLA Medical Center. By November, Brown said, his mother qualified for the operation. She merely had to give her consent.

But she hesitated.

"She was scared," Kenny Brown said. "She felt like she was going to be a burden before, during and after."

Brown had always been "the strong one on the block. She didn’t like to depend on others," Kenny said. The operation would have required 24-hour care for at least four months.

As Brown hesitated, a letter from Starbucks’ insurance company, Aetna, arrived. Her policy had been canceled as of Nov. 30. On Jan. 1, Starbucks terminated her employment.

Starbucks, which describes itself on its Web site as having an "unusually human" approach to business, said it could not comment on "current or former partners’ employment or benefits." The company, through a statement, said it was "extremely saddened by the news of former partner Sally Brown’s death."

Brown’s disability expired the same week she lost her job, leaving her with more than $20,000 in bills, Kenny Brown said. She needed money to pay for the five kinds of inhalers and medicines she took each day, and to buy oxygen.

Her Social Security payments totaled about $600 a month - the same amount as the rent she owed on the small two-bedroom apartment she shared with Kenny, his girlfriend Becky Johancen and their 16-month-old son, Ricky.

Finding an additional $350 per month for COBRA, the government-mandated 18-month continuation of Brown’s Starbucks health insurance plan, seemed out of reach.

"That was her big (dilemma)," Johancen says. "She felt like she couldn’t afford that. That was going to take more than half of her check, just for insurance."

Then there was the divorce she instigated from her husband, Richard. The two were sweethearts at Westminster High School and raised two sons, Kenny and Derrick.

Sixteen years ago, the couple amicably separated because, according to Brown’s brother Johnny Blake, Sally "was maturing more and wanting to branch out and (Richard) always wanted a homebody."

But the couple never divorced, talked often and joked about one day remarrying.

"She always loved him," Blake said. "That was her one true love."

As her medical bills mounted, however, Brown decided to cut the tie.

"She wanted to protect him," Blake said. "She was afraid that when she died, (medical billers) would come after him."

The couple divorced Dec. 8. Kenny Brown says that for a day or two after the divorce, Sally Brown was very quiet.


The story becomes muddled. Kenny Brown says his mother was told by UCLA doctors that neither COBRA nor Medi-Cal, the state public insurance fund, would pay for a lung transplant.

Not true, says Isabel Becerra, CEO of the Orange County Coalition of Community Clinics, which advocates on behalf of Orange County’s estimated 300,000 to 600,000 uninsured.

"COBRA has to honor exactly what you had previous to being uninsured," Becerra said. "If Starbucks would have covered a transplant, COBRA should have covered a transplant."

So too should Medi-Cal, except Kenny Brown said his mother was told she would have to wait two years to join the program.

It is another mystery, Becerra said, because anyone who can qualify for Social Security should also qualify for Medi-Cal.

Was Brown misled by an uncaring bureaucracy or did the former barista fail to understand her rights?

Applying for Medi-Cal is "a very rigorous process," Becerra said. There is significant paperwork involved that Kenny Brown said "frustrated and confused" his mom.

"It’s very difficult to navigate the system," Becerra said. "It’s almost as if the system is designed to keep you out instead of helping you."

Kenny Brown said his mother suffered from depression in the final weeks. Yet suicide - something Brown, a Catholic, described as "a sin," - seemed unthinkable.

"It’s the one part that I’m having the hardest time understanding," Blake said. "Because that’s not like her at all. She didn’t want to inconvenience people to begin with, much less to harm anyone else deliberately or indirectly."

The only explanation, Blake said, was that his sister "was not herself."

"Suicide is not about dying, it’s about getting rid of the pain," said Linda Borders-Killian, CEO of the Jacquelyn Bogue Foundation, a new Orange County foundation dedicated to suicide prevention. "She was probably frightened beyond her ability to think clearly."

Brown did not leave a suicide note. Her car was found running, keys still in the ignition, near where she jumped above the freeway.

Did Brown think about the people she put at risk on the freeway below?

Depression and pain make many suicidal people "somewhat ambivalent," said Jeri Livingstone, who leads the support group Survivors of Suicide (SOS) in Orange County.

The manner of death may be an indication of how determined someone is to end their life.

"The more lethal a method used - jumping off a bridge, building or in front of a train, or pointing a gun a certain way - leaves no margin for error,"

Livingstone said.

Kenny Brown said he felt enraged by some of the Internet comments that followed news of his mother’s suicide - comments chastising Brown for the danger she posed to others.

"These people have to think that this could happen to anybody," Kenny Brown said.

Not all survivors blame Brown. But Brandt, who witnessed Brown’s fall, said she is troubled by nightmares in which she sees the woman jump again and again.

"It just did something to me," Brandt said. "Every single day I say a prayer for her, wherever her soul may be. I will never forget Sally Brown."

Contact the writer: 714-704-3705 or gdriscoll@ocregister



Clifford Davies  —

Clifford Davies (c.1948 – 13 April 2008) was a … drummer, songwriter and producer.

After receiving tuition from pipe band drummer Jock Cree, and playing local gigs in the Aldershot area, in the early 70s he went on to join the Roy Young Band then the second incarnation of British jazz-rock band If from 1972 to 1975. He played on four albums by the band and contributed many of their songs. Following If’s break-up, Davies joined US hard rock guitarist Ted Nugent from 1975 to 1982 as drummer, producer and/or co-producer of all Nugent’s recordings over those years, in collaboration with Lew Futterman, who had also produced If.

In the 1980s, he worked for Next City Productions, also owned by Futterman, in New York City recording with Grand Funk Railroad among others. Since the late 1990s he lived in Atlanta teaching piano and drums. He was also instrumental in founding the Rock and Roll Remembers Foundation.

Clifford Davies was found dead in his home in Atlanta on 13 April 2008. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.[1] Reed Beaver, the owner of Equametric Studio where Davies was employed as chief engineer, reported that Davies called him the night before his body was found and was "extremely distraught" over medical bills.[2]



Martin Goldstein —

October 18, 2011  Adara Scarlet Suicide and Single Payer
Filed under: News — russell @ 11:29 am

Who is Occupying Wall Street and DC?

Adara Scarlet, for one.

Born and raised in Denver, the 27-year old headed east once she heard about the occupy movement.

Her mother died at age 40 of cervical cancer. Adara was 10 years old.

“She was one of those anti-vaccine kind of people,” Scarlet says of her mom. “She thought you could cure everything through holistic means. She tried to meditate her cancer away. It didn’t work. She could have been treated. She had many opportunities to be treated. But she waited until it was too late. She decided to do the chemo ten days before her death. It was too late.”

Adara and her sister moved in with her dad – Martin Goldstein. Her parents had divorced when the sisters were younger.

Goldstein graduated from the University of Louisville School of Law. He was a member of the Colorado Bar. But he found out that he didn’t like practicing law – so he did odd jobs – as a stock broker, taxi driver, and dispatcher.

When he lost his jobs as a dispatcher, he lost his health insurance.

But he had this amazing ability to count cards at the Blackjack table.

So, starting in 2000, Marty would go almost every day to Black Hawk, Colorado and gamble at the casinos.

And he made on average $200 a day.

“He had an amazing memory,” Adara says. “He was a walking talking encyclopedia. He taught me how to count cards when I was ten years old. He could beat the system and he did.”

Adara says that it’s a myth that counting cards at a casino is illegal.

“It’s just something you are doing in your head. He would go there and win around $200 a day – sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.”

“Back then, there was a $5 betting minimum and maximum per hand. If you were to do this today, he would be much more prosperous. Now you can bet up to $100 per hand. Back then, it was just strictly five dollar ante.”

“And he played blackjack. He was clearing $1000 a week. The rent on the house was $1195 a month. He never seemed to have a problem with the grocery shopping. And buying clothes for me and my sister.”

He was able to pay the bills – including $600 a month to Kaiser Permanente for health insurance for himself and the girls.

Then Goldstein started getting sick – and running up medical bills.

“He was having a whole bunch of medical problems,” Adara says. “They never figured out what was wrong with him. We never found out.”

The illness started in about 2000 or 2001.

He smoked a pack a day – menthol cigarettes.

What were the symptoms?

“Legs swollen,” Adara says. “Calves were so swollen they were bigger than his thighs.”

“And he couldn’t eat. He couldn’t keep food down.”

“His circulation was all screwed up, so he was always cold.”

“Kaiser bounced him around to a whole bunch of specialists. But nobody could figure out what was wrong with him – they pretty much gave up after a certain point.”

“Kaiser said – we don’t know what’s wrong with you – now give us our money.”

“But he said he was not going to pay them. He thought he could win in court because they never did anything for him and he was continuing to get sicker. He lost a whole bunch of weight. He was overweight most of his life. He actually got pretty skinny toward the end.”

“He got fed up with Kaiser. He paid all of this money into the system. Not only the premiums, but the co pays. He said – I’m not going to pay this bill – you haven’t figured out what is wrong with me.”

“I assume they wouldn’t cover him anymore, or he just refused to give them any more money.”

“Kaiser said he owed them about $10,000 for all the tests, CAT scans, MRIs. The bills kept piling up. He couldn’t pay it.”

“It was something around $10,000. He couldn’t pay it. He refused to pay it.”

“Kaiser sued him. He went to court and fought them. But Kaiser won the lawsuit.”

“But he didn’t pay. He couldn’t pay.”

“They put bill collectors on it. He was in debt to them. He had bill collectors calling him.”

“Kaiser Permanent is a horrible horrible company,” Adara says.

In early April 2003, Marty Goldstein was eating a bowl of chili in the kitchen. And he said to Adara that he was going to kill himself.

“It was the most casual thing,” Adara said. “He said – I want to talk to you about something. I don’t want you to tell your sister because she is kind of emotional. I don’t want her to get bent out of shape. But I’m sure you’ll understand.”

“And he said – I’ve decided that I have lived my life, it’s time to go, I’m going to stick around for one more birthday.”

“His birthday was April 30.”

“My birthday is May 11.”

“He was 53 that year. I was 18.”

“My response was to freak out and tell my sister, which was exactly what he asked me not to do.”

“He was sitting there eating a bowl of chili while he was talking about it. He was just blowing on the chili, eating the chili, like it was nothing.”

“I went down and told my sister – Dad is talking about killing himself.”

Did he say how he was going to do it?

“No he didn’t. He just said – it was time to bow out. It was so casual.”

“He said that he had lived his life. He said all he had done was get himself into debt. And there was no way he would be able to pay Kaiser. He said – what do I have in my future other than bankrupting my family?”

“He suffered from depression. I’m sure if we had a better mental health care system, he wouldn’t have thought this was the only way out.”

“When I told my sister, she panicked. We went upstairs and cornered my dad and said – you have every reason to live. That kind of thing.”

“He acted like we convinced him. After we were at it for a while, he said – you are absolutely right, I don’t know what I was thinking. I was just talking crazy talk. And he never brought it up again.”

That was April 2003.

Did he say anything after that date?

“Never. He never brought it up again.”

But less than a year later – on February 4, 2004 – Marty Goldstein killed himself.

How did he kill himself?

“He shot himself in the head. I got a call from my aunt. It was the cops who called her. He had left a note. He called 911 first. He said – I’m about to kill myself. Please collect my body so my daughters don’t find it. He left a short note for the emergency people. He said – here are the keys to the house for my daughters. He even said what day the trash pick up was. He said – please don’t let my daughters find my body here.”

Did he leave a note for you?

“Yes, a long note in a sealed envelope. It was a 22-page hand written letter.”

“He said when bill collectors come around, they can come and collect my TV, bed, everything like that. I have a small life insurance policy that will pay collectors off at about 75 cents on the dollar.”

“I guess he must have been about $40,000 debt in total, because it was a $30,000 life insurance policy. The life insurance company of course managed to screw us – we didn’t get that.”

“He had actually gotten life insurance with a company that covered suicide. God knows where he found that. It was some place out of Texas. He had done that specifically in the early 1990s.”

“He had this policy for years. Maybe he had suicide on the back of his mind.”

An aunt told Adara that her father’s bills wouldn’t pass on to the family.

“But collectors called me and my sister anyway. They tried to trick us into thinking that we owed it. I’m really glad my aunt told me – you don’t owe anybody any money. Don’t let anyone talk you into thinking that you do. My sister and I just hung up on them. And finally after about a year, they quit calling.”

Adara believes that if we had a single payer national health insurance system, her father might still be alive.

“He was really depressed and he considered suicide as a possibility. But I don’t think he would have done it. The Kaiser Permanente bills were on his mind.

He didn’t want to burden his family with bills.”

“My dad’s main killer was depression. And no health insurance. If he had been able to pay those bills, he would have stuck it out.”

Adara says she was a changed person after her dad died.

“I was a selfish asshole before he died,” she says. “I had a lot of friends that I would just kind of talk at. I had boyfriends I would use and walk all over. I was not a good person. I hate myself looking back. After my dad died, I had this moment of clarity that life was more important than that. So, I wanted to make amends with everybody I had ever screwed over. And I wanted to apologize to them. I tracked down some people who I had long since lost touch with. And I just apologized.”

“Even though my politics were liberal, I was a hateful person – or you could say an angsty teenager. I hated the cheerleaders just because they were cheerleaders. That kind of thing.”

“I didn’t realize how stupid that was. I waited tables and told horror stories about my customers all the time. I wouldn’t hang out with myself from back then. I was a really negative person. I was a drain on people. I was always complaining about something. And I sort of realized that and wanted to change that after my dad died. It was a slow process. But now I’m pretty much the opposite of who I was back then.”

“Earlier this year, I saw a youtube video of Dennis Trainor. I saw this video where he was inviting to people to come to Washington, D.C. for October 2011.

I just decided I had to come. I was already enrolled in college classes.”

Adara slept on Freedom Plaza in DC for a week. And now she’s heading up to Occupy Wall Street.

“Everybody who dies from lack of access to health care is a real person,” Adara says. “And everybody who dies in a war is a real person. I try to keep in the back of mind all of the time – I am not any more important than anyone else.” …



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