In the final years of her life, Robin Stone became one of the most prominent progressive health care advocates in the state of Iowa.
After going viral for an encounter with Sen. Chuck Grassley, Robin’s platform was elevated and she used her voice to spread her message. Last week, two months after her passing, Iowa Voices published one last interview with her, with the review and consent of her family.
Robin Stone’s Journey
Before the Affordable Care Act was put in place, Robin was uninsured for about six years. She thought she was healthy, and economic factors kept her without insurance as she tried to care for her son with a chronic illness.
But when Stone got an aggressive infection in her foot, she was forced to go to a hospital after trying to take care of it herself.
“And it was at that point when they ran some routine blood work that they found out my blood sugar was off the charts: I was severely diabetic, and I had no idea,” Stone said.
She went to the hospital with an infection, thinking she was otherwise healthy, and walked out as an insulin-dependent diabetic. She had been living as an undiagnosed diabetic for all those years she was uninsured.
“I know a lot of people who put off medical care and don’t go to the doctor because they don’t want to run up all those co-pays,” Stone explained. “You see it all the time. This is the way life is when you have any type of illness—you make those choices.”
Stone’s story took more unfortunate turns. She was later diagnosed with thyroid cancer. As she was beginning treatments, her employer dropped one of their insurance plans — the one Stone was enrolled in. This pushed back her treatment as she jumped through hoops to get re-insured.
Becoming An Advocate
“If I were a poor, single mother, there would be no one there to advocate for me,” Stone told Starting Line in September. “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.”
Still, Stone remained thankful for her health, being well enough that she could tell her story. She took everything that had happened to her and used it to elevate and strengthen her voice.
“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.”
Now, even after her passing, Stone’s message to uplift one’s own voice continues on.
Stone shared the power of a voice in her interview with Iowa Voices, telling people to share their stories, make it personal, and share it — not just with your friends and family, not just on social media, but share it with legislators and media.
“If you’re really concerned about this health care debate: Tell your own personal story. That’s how people relate,” Stone said. “Cold hard facts are boring and they don’t inspire anyone to do anything, but the personal stories do. When I say to someone that my life depends on this, my child depends on me to stay healthy, that’s personal and that’s real. We need to tell these stories. People need to hear them.”
Stone passed away on November 3rd. Afterward, there was an outcry of support and appreciation for her work as an advocate across social media. Her last tweet was at Sen. Grassley, and her children soon followed up.
Rep. Abby Finkenauer expressed her regards for Stone’s work as well, saying, “I am in every sense, heartbroken. Robin wasn’t just a county chair, an advocate, a force to be reckoned with, she was our friend and one of the most caring and also funny and loving people I have ever known. She inspired me everyday and we will carry her with us always.”
During the holidays, Robin Stone was honored at the 7th annual Progress Iowa holiday party, where received the Marcia Nichols Progressive Advocate of the Year Award and was honored with a video tribute.
“I wish Senator Grassley and Senator Ernst would realize that I am a valuable member of my community and I contribute here,” Stone said. “I couldn’t do this if I was sick. It doesn’t make sense to me that you would allow people to just be sick — because it costs us so much more in the long run.”
By Josh Cook