The world’s suddenly discussing health insurance on Twitter – all due to musician Amanda Palmer.
Just check out #InsurancePoll on Twitter. Right now. And answer the questions that she’s asking: 1) country? 2) profession? 3) insured? 4) if not, why not, if so, at what cost per month (or covered by job)?
Palmer says in her blog that she was coming home to Boston on Sunday after a trip to Philadelphia to do a Kickstarter house party when a New York Times story, “A Possibly Fatal Mistake,” about a 52-year-old financial consultant who chose not to buy health insurance because of the expense and is now dying of prostate cancer “hit a nerve.” She sent “a few musing tweets” about her own experiences with health insurance.
She said that in her early 20s, health insurance would have cost as much as half her rent and “it just didn’t seem like an option.” But the death of her step-brother, uninsured, had “almost destroy[ed] the family bank,” and her parents offered to pay half her insurance.
People started tweeting their own experiences with health insurance in response to her story, so she asked that they answer a few questions, and as she said, “something extraordinary happened.”
Her Twitter feed “EXPLODED.” She discovered there’s a limit of 100 tweets/retweets in an hour when she went to “twitter jail” twice.
And what she did learn?
Despite the United States’ reputation for cutting-edge, state-of-the-art health care, the rest of the world feels sorry for us. Yep. They were “shocked that we americans don’t have what they have,” Palmer wrote. “…tons of people in the UK/Finland/Australia/etc don’t know the extent to which US people FREAK OUT on a daily/monthly/yearly basis about insurance. How much it changes our lives. And how EVERYbody has a story.”
I’ve shared mine in She the People before.
And there are plenty of stories out there today. Story after story. “Most eye-opening” in Palmer’s opinion are the stories about “people getting married and/or putting off having children due to insurance problems.”
I couldn’t be a freelance journalist if I weren’t married to someone who has health insurance through work (and that’s been a dicey proposition with his four layoffs in four years).
Palmer asked for a “geeky statistician” to volunteer to compile the data, and Aubrey (@aubreyjaubrey) from Michigan put together a chart. As of last night:
Almost 25 percent of U.S. respondents don’t have health insurance because of the cost.
Nearly 32 percent of respondents were from outside the United States, and all but one had some kind of compulsory government-supported health care.
Nearly 25 percent outside the United States have some employer/private insurance for optometry and dental with individual costs ranging from $45 to $90 a month and $250 for a family monthly.
Germany seemed to be “the only other country with extortionate health care costs,” Palmer wrote.
There are plenty of heartbreaking stories out there: two breast cancer survivors who can’t get health insurance because they’re high risk; the freelance writer who left her abusive husband and can’t afford insurance.
Most Americans seem to have insurance if it’s offered through their employer. Not much help for the millions who are out of work. Unions are mentioned frequently with gratitude. College students have thanked the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare as some like to call it) so that they can stay on their parents’ policies.
To every politician who has opposed health care reform: Are you listening?
Diana Reese is a freelance journalist in Kansas City and a contributing author to The Duke Encyclopedia of New Medicine.