runaway twitter insurance poll & the power of social media & sharing stories

hola comrades

so yesterday something extraordinary happened while i was diddling around on the train from philly to boston, coming home from an overnight trip to do a kickstarter house party, saturday night.

i was casually reading the sunday new york times (one of my very favorite combinations in life: train, coffee, ping-ponging between reading the newspaper, my twitter feed, and looking out the window at the new england coastline) and i read this article in the sunday review section: A Possibly Fatal Mistake. long story short: when you’re uninsured and the shit hits the fan, the shit….hits the fan. i had a to-do list of other things to focus on (a blog about my houseparty, for one, which was AWESOME…thanks ellen & michael!!), but….

it hit a nerve with me, and i sent a few musing tweets about my own experiences with insurance…

most small-to-mid-level musicians i know don’t have health insurance. some musicians find tricky ways, some pay, most take the risk & pray.

when i was in my early twenties, buying my own insurance would have been equal half my rent. it just didn’t seem like an option. (cont…)

my parents had just watched the death of my step-brother (uninsured when stricken with a disease) almost destroy the family bank…(cont).

…and so they DEMANDED i get insurance. we fought. they offered to pay half. i agreed. i was lucky. many aren’t. think about it. #AndVote.

…and then people starting musing back at me, in their own tweets, about their own experiences with insurance. i could tell i’d hit somewhat of a nerve with THEM, and then it occurred to me that’d it’d probably lead to a fascinating cross-section of information if i asked everybody on my feed what their current situation was:
quick twitter poll. 1) COUNTRY?! 2) profession? 3) insured? 4) if not, why not, if so, at what cost per month (or covered by job)?

…and my feed EXPLODED. EXPLODED. i found out that twitter has a twitter LIMIT (you can’t tweet more than 100 tweets/RTs in an hour – which is probably to prevent actual pornbots and such) and i went to “twitter jail” twice. but the force of what people wanted to share was unstoppable. i think i probably got more than 2k responses to the question. i only wish that i could have shared every single response, because the story it’s all telling is huge. deep. painful. crazy.

most eye-opening were the stories about people getting married and/or putting off having children due to insurance problems.

also this: people OUTSIDE the US were looking at all the tweets from the US and feeling really, really, really bad for us. and some younger tweeters (teenagers, i can only assume) were shocked that we americans don’t have what they have (the NHS was getting a lot of love and support from the brits, especially seeing as it’s under threat).
people INSIDE the US couldn’t believe what people OUTSIDE the US didn’t KNOW. this is the amazing power of twitter sometimes. we all think we share common knowledge, and then something like this pops up and BAM – you see a whole bunch of people in different countries shocking the hell out of each other. we all know that lance armstrong doped, that lady gaga gained weight, , etc….but 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 asked for a volunteer (that’s right folks, a volunteer. we can all send her virtual hugs and high fives later) who might be a geeky statistician wanting to compile the data to step forward and aubrey (@aubreyjaubrey) from michigan did – bless her heart. all of a sudden a total stranger was reaching out to the people on my feed, gathering extra data to put together an actual chart of information.

people really started pouring out their stories. the actual dollar amounts. lots of frustration and shame about jobs, choices, insurance, changing life courses.

the craziest thing that happened is that towards the end of the night, i simply could not keep up with the amount of info and i started seeing something i don’t USUALLY see, as i’m generally wrapped up in a twitter-y amanda-bubble, talking about things like….music and musicians and stuff. all sorts of onlookers started to wander over and talk about what we were doing. and people started saying “hey: there are real stories, HUNDREDS of them, being told over here. you should go look.”

and when they did, they saw things like this…

• 1. US 2. sah-mom 3. Yes after 3 yrs w/none,4. Spouse Union job/$0, b4- $1300.month/mammogram copay-$1700 #InsurancePoll. — Peg(@IowaPeg) (link)

• 1.USA 2. Teacher/private school 3. Shared by employer. I pay $700/ month for HMO for family of four. #InsurancePoll — Shannon Vermeeren (@ghostsandstars) (link)

• 1)US 2)Tech/freelance writer 3)No 4)Lost coverage 4 yrs ago when I left abusive husband, now can’t afford it #insurancepoll — Maggie Croft (@albionidaho) (link)

• 1)USA 2)NURSE 3) no 4) not offered through my agency and too expensive for private. (and I’m asthmatic) #InsurancePoll — Switch65 (@SwitchMe65) (link)

• 1)UK 2)Doctor 3)No 4)Free #nhs care, thank goodness. — David Griffith (@theplaguedoc) (link)

it was then that i realized we could probably hand this hashtag over to the world, take it off my feed (i don’t have the energy to moderate thousands and thousands of RTs…and i shouldn’t, we should ALL do it. so now (tomorrow morning, as i’m writing this) when the majority of the US and Europe are awake (and australia, you’ll be sleepy, but tune in), i’m going to hand this over to the people.


not bad for lettering left-handed, eh?

EVERYBODY can twitter the questions, and the hashtag, and EVERYBODY can share the results.

can you imagine what would happen if EVERYBODY in america (AND the world in contrast) shared their insurance stories and information, and got it trending on twitter, with everybody adding their stories to the pot??? hell, i can’t think of a better way to combat voter apathy, honestly.
this shit is real, yo.

and it’s non-partisan. no judgment. just tweet the question, share your story, and listen back & keep the conversation going.

again, the question to share/ask (and answer if you haven’t yet): quick #InsurancePoll 1) COUNTRY?! 2) profession? 3) insured? 4) if not, why not, if so, at what cost per month (or covered by job)?

the collective conversation is what’s important, and what we will learn with the volume turned way up might really make a REALLY big noise. it already has. and if you wanna share more story, comment below in the blog itself. i wanna read, and seeing the twitter results, everybody else does.

especially heartbreaking: two separate women twittering that they couldn’t afford insurance BECAUSE they were breast cancer survivors (and therefore “high risk.” wow. that is truly fucked.)

let’s do it. it’d be amazing to see #InsurancePoll trending alongside bieber-fever.

i’ll post the gathered data as soon as it’s ready. the results, as DM’d to me a few hours ago by @aubreyjaubrey:
– preliminary info from first 156 responses indicates 24.5% of US respondents do not have insurance because of cost.
– 31.4% of responses were from outside of US. all but one person had some kind of compulsory of government supported healthcare – (that one person was denied)
– 24.4% of those abroad have some employer/private insurance for optometry and dental. individual costs from $45-$90/month. around $250/mo for a family.
– based on responses, Germany appears to be the only other country with extortionate health care costs.

a few hours ago aubrey posted she was off to bed but would continue today and that so far, 240 sets of data had been entered.

and now………dig in…raise your voice…if you want to see/read more about what’s happening, you can also just go read my feed. it’d take you a while, but it’s ALL there.

to start you off, here’s a selection of it from the past twelve hours or so, the first of which is by the author of the times’ piece that got me going to begin with…this is what i love about twitter: strike a match. carry it to the world. pass it off. watch it SPREAD LIKE WILDFIRE. WE ARE THE MEDIA. this rocks.

• Thanks to @AmandaPalmer for following my health column http://nyti.ms/Ou087c with her #InsurancePoll http://bit.ly/blog101512 — Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) (link)

• Was working as a writer for Wired for 40 hours/week for several months, in an office. No health insurance given #insurancepoll — Geeta Dayal (@geetadayal) (link)

• I got married when I got pregnant at 18 for insurance. He was abusive but I stayed 17 years — flowerbudd (@flowerbudd) (link)

• Actor. Insured through my union, eligibility determined by earnings. I worry I won’t make it every single year. — Wil Wheaton (@wilw) (link)

• #insurancepoll USA/dance teacher/ yes/ 454 for myself and 2 sons. Husband covered by job for 100. For fam would be 800. — Karen Fullerton (@kafdancer) (link)

• we were going to get married anyways but she switched Jobs and pregnancy would have become pre-existing cond so we rushed it. — Geof W (@GeofW) (link)

• 1) USA 2) writer 3) Yes 4) Writers Guild of America. Free but I have to write a certain amount of films/TV a year to qualify. — Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) (link)

• Canada. Full-time student and part-time vet assistant. Insured for free because everyone is!! — Marley (@marleybones) (link)

• 1) US 2) artist 3) yes 4) $1800 a month for 2 of us under our small business plan (more than our rent!) #insurancepoll — armyoftoys (@armyoftoys) (link)

• #InsurancePoll 1 USA 2. HS teacher 3.insured PPO 4. I pay $350 a month+$150 meds a month+ after a $3k deductible. ER visit =$600 copay — elephantsgerald (@elephantsgerald) (link)

• 1) US 2) housewife 3) yes, though spouse’s work, ~$400/mo, inclds vision, dental; count myself damn lucky #insurancepoll — Deborah Kelch (@auntie_) (link)

• #InsurancePoll. 1. usa 2. unemployed/disabled 3. yes, COBRA 4. no,/ $700 (and hundreds more that isn’t covered) — Anna Calkins (@morrigan191) (link)

• #insurancepoll USA, chiropractor/library aide, $1000/mo with $6500 deductible for family, have never met deductible — Leah Osterberg (@LOsterberg) (link)

• Musician/freelancer, catastrophic from Anthem at $115/mo. Went to a walk-in clinic and it cost me $400. #insurancepoll — Nicole (@HelloTheFuture) (link)

• #insurancepoll 1. San Francisco, CA USA 2. blogger 3. Yes 4. $1,200/mo for family of 4 — jordanferney (@jordanferney) (link)

• Through mister’s grocery job, family of 4, around $250/month, but there’s still a lot of out of pocket $$. #InsurancePoll — Sara Habein (@sshabein) (link)

• US/AZ, unemployed, yes, free care on Indian Reservation #insurancepoll — Nadia (@LegionRainier) (link)

• #insurancepoll : 1) USA, 2) PT, 3) Y – Spouse’s work covers 4) $1300/mo for fam of 4, $1500 ind./$3000 fam deductible. Denied 2x private ins — Karen (@Submommy) (link)

• #InsurancePoll. 1. USA 2. Unemployed artist 3.Yes -thru COBRA 4. $625/month- looking for full-time job mostly for insurance — Erika I. (@nycowgirl_emi) (link)

• My answer: 1) US 2) doctor/writer 3)Yes 4)Yes: >$1000/mo for family of 5. #InsurancePoll — Atul Gawande (@Atul_Gawande) (link)

• 1. USA, 2. Author, 3. Yes, but 4. Only bc I’m still covered by my parents. Otherwise, too expensive. #InsurancePoll — Victoria Schwab (@veschwab) (link)

• 1) US 2) Physician 3) Yes 4) Free/employee benefit #InsurancePoll — Graham Walker (@grahamwalker) (link)

• 1)Around the world 2)composer/pianist 3) never 4)none #insurancepoll — Lance Horne (@LanceHorne) (link)

• 1) USA 2) Freelance Web/Mobile Developer 3) No. 4) Too expensive. #insurancePoll — Jon (@JustJon) (link)

• Same > RT @greeblemonkey: #insurancepoll 1. Denver CO USA 2. freelance designer 3. COBRA after pre-existing denials 4. $1,500/mo — Bryan Giese (@bugfrog) (link)

• 1) USA 2) UX Architect 3) Insured. 4) Yes, but covered through spouse’s employer. #InsurancePoll — Thomas L. Strickland (@thomasls) (link)

• USA /clerical worker at university lab/ I have ins through employer, but pay over $700/ mo to add family #InsurancePoll — Pixiestix1207 (@pixiestix1207) (link)

• 1)USA 2)Writer/Reporter &married to same 3)Yes 4)No/ self-pay $15K/yr+$5K deductible family of 4 #InsurancePoll @atul_gawande — Philip Gourevitch (@PGourevitch) (link)

• #InsurancePoll 1) USA 2) self-employed 3) yes 4) approx $500/mo for me (age 38) and two kids, 7 and 4. $3300 deductible. :( — Jill Arnold (@Unnecesarean) (link)

• I’m in Australia and pregnant. We have Medicare. Midwife appts all free. Anything goes wrong with my birth or baby it’s free. — Helen Perris (@helenperris) (link)

• 1. US 2.Brand new business owner 3 &4 SISC-free under parents insurance bc of Obamacare (under 26 otherwise couldn’t afford) #InsurancePoll — Luz Donahue (@luzdonahue) (link)

spread the word, tweet the question, share this blog………LET’S DO THIS…

p.s. when i was in Philly, i stayed with my photographer friend kyle cassidy, who gave me his doctor who scarf and sonic screwdriver and took a picture. ACTIVATE!!!

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