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We're Fighting Back

Meet the patients, providers, and family members who refuse to be victims of our broken healthcare system: they're fighting back. Click on any photo or name below to read the inspiring story of what our activists have endured under this healthcare system, why they decided to stand up and fight back, and how the decision has changed their lives.

Add your voice, and tell us why you're fighting back!

My Healthcare Story

Migrating from the Philippines, where healthcare takes a backseat in our day to day lives due to scarcity of resources available for all of us in need, coming here in the US as a Registered Nurse, has opened my heart and eyes of how vast the healthcare resources are but is never really accessible to everyone. As a mom of 2 young kids, I fear for their future and I don’t want them to go through making a choice of seeking healthcare as a human right versus food and other basic needs. Looking back to a painful experience, when my father was hospitalized for complications of Diabetes, it was heart wrenching for me and my family to decide against our will to bring our ailing father home from the hospital, because we can no longer afford and sustain the ginormous hospital bills and medication costs.

My Healthcare Story

My husband, Larry, and I have been married for nearly 40 years. We have six children and 15 grandchildren. We are among the millions of Americans who have faced financial ruin due to medical crisis and debt. After my husband faced three open heart surgeries and I was diagnosed with cancer, we were forced into bankruptcy by aggressive medical collectors who threatened to sue us for the deductible portions of our bills even after our health insurance had paid the providers thousands. We tried hard to pay everyone a little bit, but we could not find any way to cover all the bills and pay our other living expenses.

I was especially hurt by the providers who we needed so badly to help us recover and maintain our health who became unwilling to help us when we could not pay deductibles and co-pays up front. Following one trip to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, our insurance company paid $90,000 to cover
all but $6,000 of the bill for my husband’s surgery and follow-up care. We received a letter a few weeks later from Mayo saying that their foundation was going to forgive the $6,000 debt but that if we ever wanted to return for further care, we would need to pay up front any estimated out-of-pocket costs. That effectively ended my husband’s care at this world-renowned facility where our insurance company sent us for care since they had a contractual arrangement with the clinic to provide the specialized care my husband needed.

We were both devastated not only by our illnesses but also by the brutality of the health care system. We had always been as responsible as we could be, and we never went without health insurance. Each year, we would choose the plan that seemed best for our family. But we finally lost our home, and it seemed that blow after blow kept coming even as we worked to stabilize our lives and our family.

I struggled not to give up. The demands placed on me to try to access the care we needed, arrange for payment as best we could, and avoid the medical collectors made me depressed, frightened and angry. Friends and even family members backed away from us as they grew weary of hearing the latest trauma. We became isolated and often wondered how or even why we would go on living this way.

Throughout it all, I missed very little work as I knew keeping my job also meant keeping our insurance. In addition to our own financial upheaval, I was so aware and so sad that our illnesses and claims for our care were driving up insurance costs for all of my fellow employees and their families. We hated that. Giving up sometimes seemed like the best option.

My Healthcare Story

In 2005 I thought I knew what I was doing with my life: I was going to graduate school for labor education & labor research in upstate New York. That’s when I developed a serious panic disorder. This probably isn’t what you think it is – I wasn’t going through a stressful time of my life, and I didn’t have any particular fears or phobias that I could identify. I would just start shaking uncontrollably and wouldn’t be able to stop for hours on end. Sometimes the attacks would start in the middle of the night while I was sleeping. I had no idea what was happening to me, and I assumed I had some sort of physical illness – my doctors also misdiagnosed the panic attacks as a dietary issue at first.

The attacks got bad enough that I couldn’t go to work or attend classes any longer. After landing in the emergency room three times, I was finally admitted to the hospital for several days, which was how long it took to stabilize me and find the right medication to stop the attacks so I could get longer-term care.

When I was being discharged, my doctor sat me down and told me that he hoped it wouldn’t fill me with anxiety or worry, but my insurance company – Aetna – was refusing to cover my hospital stay, which they claimed was unnecessary. I wasn’t worried until I got the bill, which was around $5,000. At the time I was earning $14,000 a year, and $5,000 might as well have been $5 million.

My illness suddenly felt like a minor problem compared to potentially going bankrupt from medical bills. I was supposed to be working on recovery from a serious anxiety disorder, but instead I was consumed by worry about my future. I didn’t know that such a thing was even possible in our healthcare system: I had health insurance, and I hadn’t admitted myself to the hospital – my doctors had admitted me. It was unfair, and I was both furious and terrified.