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What I’m Thankful For.

Published On November 27, 2019

By: Emily Barson


As the season of thanks is upon us, I want to offer my reflections on how thankful I am to lead the work of United States of Care every day.

Last week we wrapped up our second annual convening, A Better Future: Building a Health Care System for All. Over 200 experts, policymakers, advocates, and regular people came together around the simple but bold notion that our Board Chair Andy Slavitt summed up in his closing words, “we don’t have to live in a country where people can’t afford their health.” It’s that simple. That is our mission at United States of Care, and one I’m thankful to be a part of.

As we gather with our families and friends this holiday season, I am thankful for the growing movement of people from all walks of life and corners of this country, that are standing up together to say: we can – and must – do better. It can sometimes feel hard to find optimism in what feels like a battle over our very health and wellbeing. But there is reason to be hopeful and thankful.

I’m thankful for colleagues like Catherine Jacobson, who used her lived experiences of advocating for herself within a health care system that doesn’t always respect her agency as an individual, to propel her toward a career in health policy at United States of Care.

I’m thankful for visionaries like Louisiana Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee, whose creativity and persistence in pursuing access to a lifesaving, but hugely expensive, treatment for hepatitis C expanded access across her state through an innovative approach, and saved lives.

For advocates like Nicole Smith-Holt, who turned unimaginable tragedy into a movement for insulin for all, driving real change in her home state of Minnesota and across the country.

I’m thankful for state leaders who are tired of waiting on the federal government and are working to develop and implement state-based options that can bring down high prices for people who are struggling to access the care they need. For states working to address the very real gaps in access to mental health and substance use treatments, making sure we can get the health care we need to keep us well.

I’m thankful for leaders like Amy Webb, who is a powerful voice for inclusion on behalf of her daughter and so many others with disabilities. At our convening, she reflected that when she did not see the tools to honor differences between people, she wrote the words herself. We are so thankful that Amy shared Grace’s story with us, and signed copies of her book, “When Charley met Emma,” to keep spreading her awesome message. (My four-year-old loved it!)

For advocates like Dr. Lisa Fitzpatrick, whose passion for health literacy and patient engagement is so deep that she moved to live in the community she was working to serve. She reminds us that in order to drive real change, we must engage people directly and meet them where they are, and change our approach to meet the needs.

For voices like Greg Williams, who used his experience in recovery to help others, through advocacy, policy, and lifting up the stories of others, to bring help to the millions of Americans still struggling with addiction.

I’m thankful that people across this country are leveraging their voices and their experiences to be a force for change in their communities, states, and the country. When we listen – really listen – to the stories of everyday people, and follow their lead, we keep the focus where it matters: on achieving policies that actually make a difference in people’s lives.

That’s what we are working toward at United States of Care — people-centered policies that can improve the lives of millions and ensure that in one of the richest countries in the world, everyone can afford the care they need.

We couldn’t do this important work without the support and contributions of all those who believe in our mission and approach, and agree that we can do better by our fellow Americans. Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for being a part of United States of Care!

Emily Barson
Executive Director

P.S. Please check out our new brand video and the video announcing our new initiative, Real People. Real Talk. via our YouTube Channel.