Shortcomings of the health care industry in the United States have been exposed in the 2020 presidential election debate. For one Iowan, even paying into private insurance left her at risk of losing it all.
“I am living out the pitfalls of employer-provided health care insurance,” said Robin Stone, a resident of Delaware County in Eastern Iowa, struggling with a personal health crisis. “My health care is tied to my employer, and that threatened my life this week.”
Stone has insulin-dependent diabetes. Until recently, that was her biggest medical hurdle. But after her employer dropped one of their health insurance providers, a thyroid-cancer diagnosis stranded Stone with some tough choices to make.
Anger To Advocacy
Stone works a job with hourly pay. One day, she showed up to work to find a letter from her employer, addressed to all employees, stating the company had dropped one of the two insurance plans it offered. With her first cancer treatment literally just a few days away, Stone was left scrambling to figure out how any of it would be covered.
With her cancer treatments already set to begin, the news that her plan was canceled meant that her treatment would have to be completely reorganized and rescheduled. Because of the red tape experienced all over the medical industry, this left Stone worried about the timeline of her treatment.
“I was basically left without insurance,” Stone explained. “I had the chance to go on my husband’s plan, but transitioning to that would have cost us more than $500 immediately. I’m an hourly employee; I don’t just have that kind of money laying around.”
Put in this position, Stone considered the ramifications of starting all over. She would have to find a new doctor, a new provider, a new hospital and more.
“I have cancer, I don’t have time for that,” Stone said.
Luckily for Stone, the other plan her employer offered was an adequate placeholder, but it still resulted in treatment dates getting pushed back.. With the support of her husband and the rest of her family, Stone will still get the care she needs.
“If I were a poor, single mother, there would be no one there to advocate for me,” Stone explained. “My husband and I have worked in medical areas for a while. If that weren’t the case, I don’t know where I’d be right now with my situation.”
Despite her cancer diagnosis, Stone considers herself fortunate. Because she and her husband have worked in the medical field, they understand how it works. But, she’s also aware that isn’t the case for many people in similar situations, which is why she’s working to tell her story.
“People are literally profiting off of people getting sick. I spend $450 a month out of pocket; if I didn’t have my husband and these extra resources, I would either go bankrupt or die,” Stone said. “I’m taking anger and turning it into being an advocate.”
Where To Go From Here
Stone pays attention to the 2020 presidential race, especially Democrats’ health care proposals. However, given her current situation, Stone is frustrated by some of the talk on how much Americans like their private insurance.
“Your private health care insurance is great … until you get sick,” Stone said. “The problem with health care is profits, until we get rid of profits, this won’t get better.”
Stone said she hoped to get time to talk to the presidential candidates and ask them to put themselves in her shoes.
“I’d like them to tell me what they would have done in my position. Medicare is not available to me, I’m too young. I don’t qualify for Medicaid, I make too much money,” Stone explained. “I lost my employer-provided insurance, and I have cancer; what in the hell do you expect me to do? And if I sound a little angry, it’s because I am.”
As an hourly-wage worker, Stone is upset with the rising costs of managing her health. Why, she asked, is keeping herself alive costing her the little money she has leftover at the end of the month?
“It’s immoral, just flat out immoral, for anybody in the medical field to make one penny of profit off of me having insulin-dependent diabetes; think about that for a minute,” Stone said. “That, to me, is the great immorality of this country.”
Stone was particularly interested in talking with Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst about her voting record against the Affordable Care Act, which aimed to provide health care coverage for uninsured Americans.
“I would love to be locked in a room for an hour with Joni Ernst. I want to hear what her solution would be to my problem,” Stone said. “I don’t know if they don’t understand, or if they don’t want to understand. But I would love the opportunity to ask them, ‘what would you do in my position?'”
By Josh Cook