Resources for Telling Your Healthcare Story
NOTE: If you've landed here, you should have already completed the Telling Your Story Training. Haven't had the training yet? Sign up here!
Your healthcare story is the most powerful message for Medicare for All - far more important than economic arguments, or data about uninsurance and bankruptcy rates. As you work on your story, please feel free to use the resources below and check out some sample stories for inspiration.
When you're finished with your story, you can submit it, anonymously or with your name attached, in writing and/or video, for our national database of healthcare stories. You can submit your story via web form here, schedule a virtual appointment with the Telling Your Story team to record a video story here, or just send your stories and videos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this video, Rebecca Wood tells her family's healthcare story at a 2019 House Ways and Means Committee hearing on "Pathways to Universal Coverage."
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.
Why I’m Fighting Back:
As a nurse and a patient advocate, I feel compelled to come out and speak the truth. As I always tell my patients who compliments me of my ethical/professional practice at the bedside, my response is always – “I may be the one taking care of you and my other patients this time, but sometime in the future, reality is, I will become a patient myself and I don’t want my family to be burdened by not knowing where to get the resources needed for my care.”
How Taking Action Has Changed Me:
I used to live by a common “Filipino” trait of “sucking it up”; “be thankful of whatever you have”; “obey first before you complain” – and with all the stories and personal experiences staring/confronting me at work and in the community, I believe I cannot “shut up” anymore! I have to stand up and “walk my talk” since I am first and foremost a “patient advocate”. I am fighting for Healthcare as a human right, fighting for what is rightfully ours.
In this video, Stephanie explains how her experiences with the healthcare system called her to become a leader in our movement.
My Health Care 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.
Why I Chose to Fight Back
In 2007, we were one of only a dozen subjects selected to be featured in Michael Moore's documentary film, SiCKO. We remind those who ask that we were not in the film because we are unique but just the opposite. Our experience is not unique as so many American families face what we did.
Having our story told helped give us back some of the dignity we had lost through the years. Some people thought we would be paid for being in that film, but we assured them that was not true. No one is paid to be in a documentary like this, and no one gets rich doing so. In our wildest dreams we wondered if some kind person would step up to help, but help did not come in that way.
I testified to the U.S. Congressional House Judiciary Committee about medical bankruptcy, and I began speaking around the country about single-payer health reform. In November of 2007, I boarded a Healthcare-NOW! bus that toured 17 congressional districts in 12 states and showed SiCKO at nearly every stop. We met so many incredible people who had been struggling like my family had been, and we knew that fighting back was the only way to help push for a change that could prevent this kind of suffering.
In 2008, I was hired by the California Nurses Association, and my professional life took an incredible turn as I worked with the nurses and helped them advocate for a more just health care system. I lived and worked first in Chicago, my hometown, and then in Washington, D.C., where the Affordable Care Act was being designed, debated and eventually passed.
It was not the policy fix the nurses or I desired, and we made that clear as the process moved along.
How Taking Action Has Changed Me
I have taken a journey from being someone terribly damaged by the dysfunctional U.S. health care system to being a person who believes we can and must change this system. I have met thousands of people in the 43 states, in Canada and in Australia where I have spoken who want change as much as I do, and meeting those many thousands of people has helped restore our dignity and our faith in others. I now know that the work I do with Healthcare-NOW! and other single-payer advocacy organizations is critical to reaching out to others who are still caught in the struggle (as I still am at times) and building the grassroots army that now can see single-payer as much more than a possibility but as a probability for fixing the broken system.
Here, Ben talks about how his healthcare story led him to devote his life to the fight for Medicare for All.