Health Issues


A Health Care State of Emergency


The Joe Dimarco Story

Sedona’s Health Care Emergency Siren Keeps Resounding − Two Years Later – as One Resident ’s Cry for Help Remains Ignored

by a Heartless Health Care System


by Catherine J. Rourke,

Published June 24, 2009


You've all heard of Joe the Plumber. Now meet Joe the Handyman, of Sedona, Ariz. − a 58-year-old home improvement contractor, now shortchanged, defaulted, repossessed and practically foreclosed on everything he’s ever worked for, saved for and lived for.

In March 2008, Joe Dimarco lost something far more precious than a house or a car or a savings account. He lost his beloved wife, partner, companion and soulmate, Andrea, to a cancer that went, according to Joe, improperly treated by a callous and corrupt system. Joe believes her life could have been saved with proper medical and financial support.

Like many other Americans, Joe is watching his hopes and dreams dashed against the red rocks, thanks to the nation's disgraceful health care system that has left folks like him stripped of everything.

This is the Joe we believe the presidential candidates should have been talking about - the real Joe, simply seeking medical care for his ailing wife and compassion from doctors, insurance companies, hospitals and social services. We believe that Joe Dimarco represents everything that is wrong with America today, a sick nation crippled by war, Wall Street greed and "Let them eat cake" political leaders who fail to recognize the true needs of their constituents.

Joe struggles to survive in the affluent city of Sedona, where housing and living costs rank among the highest in the state of Arizona as well as the nation.

Those of you who saw Joe in our first issue's video shot in July 2007 by filmmaker Stephen DeVol will remember him talking with his wife, Andrea, about how America's health care system was destroying their financial, emotional and physical well-being. And, in their story on our "SiCKO in Sedona" pages, you were able to follow their downward spiral into despair and destitution into 2008.


by award-winning filmmaker Stephen DeVol

Joe and Andrea Dimarco 2007 - LISTEN TO THE DIMARCOS ON VIDEO

Read the original Dimarco story - Sedona Observer, Oct. 21, 2007

Read the Dimarco 2008 story - Sedona Observer, Feb. 12, 2008

Well, things only became worse for them - like many others who are losing everything they ever had.

Joe's story is not just about the loss of a home and material things or even a loved one. It's about the devaluing of human life in a capitalistic health care system that renders everything a commodity, equivalent to a bottom line whose future remains questionable as banks and corporations crumble.

His story is about the loss of quality of life for millions of Americans like him, sold out by a system steeped in sheer greed - one that favors AIG and motor company fat cats who fly to congressional hearings on Lear jets, begging for billions with tin cups yanked from the hands of hard-working, struggling taxpayers.

It's about a system that wages a war whose $10 trillion per month could provide services to citizens like the now-deceased Andrea and restore life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for millions of Americans like Joe.

Since The Sedona Observer upholds every American's right to Freedom of Speech under the First Amendment, here, for the record, is Joe's story from November 2008, in his own profound and chillingly truthful words:


This Could Happen to You

by Joe Dimarco

It is hard to believe that this could happen in America.


Here I sit, almost nine months after Andrea’s passing, looking back at all the medical bills that Andrea and I have accrued to try to keep her with me. But I don’t want to think about that. I want to keep her alive in my heart.


However, let’s face it; the bills just don’t go away. It came to a point that I had to remove my mailbox and remove the numbers off of the house plus disconnect all phone lines to go into hiding from the creditors. We had to use all of our savings and maxed out all of our credit cards in order to pay medical bills.


Because I was self-employed, my ability to run my own business declined in direct proportion to the need to monitor and assist with Andrea’s medical issues. No income resulted in $56,000 in credit card debt just to take care of Andrea, buy medical supplies and pay household expenses.


Our anniversary just passed. We would have been married 37 years. Now it is Thanksgiving and it is the first time after 36 years of being together that I am alone. Giving thanks to what? I am grieving over the loss of my wife.

This has caused so much stress that I contracted Bells palsy after releasing her ashes. Now I have to make a choice to use Western or holistic treatment myself, but the insurance companies won’t cover naturopathic treatment, only allopathic medical treatment.

The doctors want to do an MRI, a CAT scan and blood tests to rule out stroke. Well, do I dare accrue another medical debt or pay holistic practitioners out of pocket? Let me think. An MRI, CAT scan and blood tests will cost another $15,000 or so versus naturopathic treatment that would cost far less. The last thing I need now is more medical bills.

I was on the verge of losing my house before all of this and, thanks to my family and friends, I was able to keep my home. I cannot expect them to help like that again so I will choose the natural way to regain my own health.


I have been working since I was 7 years old and that is the way my family’s work ethic is. I got my Social Security card on my 16th birthday. Now I am 58 years old and, of those years working, I have been self-employed for 30 of them.

Recently I was able to get a job at half of what I was making before, paying just enough to cover all my expenses with $150 left for food and gas to get me back and forth to work. I can’t send any money to the credit card companies unless I do not want to eat.

I worked out a deal with the car lender to bring down my payment with them. They wouldn’t talk to me about helping me when Andrea was dying. So, after I talked to them, I waited a month and started sending half payments to see what would happen.

The bank accepted the checks for four months. A month later, I got a call from the bank. The bank said that I could not pay that way, so I told them the whole story but to no avail. The bank was sticking to its policy.

At that point I said to them that they had accepted four payments and, in legal terms, they had changed the contract with me. The bank agreed with me, and it will now take me 14 years to pay them off. This helps me out, but I still have no extra money to live the life I once had.    


                                      Who is going to bail me out?

I sit here and contemplate what life brings. I guess, when we are young and foolish, we believe that we are invincible, but guess what…this is a story that can happen to you too.

                                       Who is going to bail you out?

You’re on your own and no one is there for you from the government to the medical community to the creditors.

As an example, the Social Security Dept., one week after Andrea’s death, took Andrea’s disability money back without letting me know which. Then they bounced four checks to the utility companies and I had to pay the bounced check fees on top of it.

APS doesn’t care whether or not I have electricity. The gas company doesn’t care whether or not I have heat. The water company doesn’t care whether or not I have drinking water. The mortgage company doesn’t care whether or not I have a roof over my head. They all care about profit which for them determines their quality of life.

For me, the struggle to get from one day to the next and still have food, electricity, heat, water and a home determines my quality of life. Needless to say, I don’t sleep too well at night anymore. Worrying has a way of keeping you up. So does pain.

So much for the quality of life.

As I sit here rolling coins from my piggybank, I am astounded at the complete lack of help from our government and various agencies while we pay larger and larger amounts of money for taxes and insurance policies. Would our founding fathers be proud of what we have allowed this country to become? Is this the vision they hoped and dreamed for us? I don’t think so.

We can do better than this. A new administration is coming in. Write and call congresspeople to demand a change in this archaic health care system. Good health care must be available for all − not just the rich. No one should end up destitute because of illness.

Joseph DiMarco

Sedona, Ariz.





Universal single-payer could have eliminated Joe's nightmare and possibly saved Andrea's life. Only time will tell if the new administration can salvage what's left of lives like his and countless others teetering on the edge of the precipice. Current iniatives, no matter how well-meaning or eloquent, remain vague at best and contain more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. Instead, they provide plenty of ammunition for debate by arch-conservative Republican leaders, who enjoy generous health care coverage for life, while offering few, if any, alternatives for the truly destitute and downtrodden.

For now, the Observer upholds the media's moral responsibility to report these untold stories in an effort to move our communities and nation toward a WE versus ME society of compassion and positive action. So Joe's story didn't end with our first issue in 2007 and it certainly doesn't end here.

We will continue to document what happens to Joe while exposing the truth about what is really happening to people behind the gilded red rocks of Sedona, and elsewhere around America, in our ongoing dedication to the First Amendment and public service journalism, without any profits whatsoever from pharmaceutical companies, hospitals or other advertisers, for the common good.

We have, like Joe, such a long way to go.




by award-winning filmmaker Stephen DeVol

Joe and Andrea Dimarco 2007 - LISTEN TO THE DIMARCOS ON VIDEO

Read the original Dimarco story - Sedona Observer, Oct. 21, 2007

Read the Dimarco 2008 story - Sedona Observer, Feb. 12, 2008



Catherine Rourke is an award-winning professional journalist who writes investigative reports on health care as well as other socioeconomic and work-life balance issues.




Health Care Stories in The Sedona Observer

Launched in 2007 to uphold the First Amendment, nonprofit public service journalism and investigative reporting for the express purpose of exposing the truth about the health care crisis in northern Arizona (see the WHEN page for more details about our history and the WHY page for our mission), it features Verde Valley residents’ personal horror stories in both articles and video format, as well as the testimonials of medical professionals.

To read these investigative reports and view videos of people’s stories, go to the following links:


Personal health care story submission form - We send these to Michael Moore and barackobama.com


Health Care Story Videos by award-winning filmmaker Stephen DeVol:


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