#InsurancePoll: Amanda Palmer wants to know about your experience with health insurance

Amanda Palmer was musing about the messed up state of US health insuranceso she took to Twitter, writing about it under the #InsurancePoll tag ("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)?"). The tag's blown up, trending across the USA, as people weigh in with their insurance horror stories. Then a volunteer statistician came forward to compile a report on the data generated by the poll. They're looking for lots more people to step forward and participate.

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. nice.

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


    1. http://www.amandapalmer.net/blog/20121015/

      You might also want to check out:

      Personal stories of destitution. If you read enough of them, you notice the usual sinkholes of despair are student debt and healthcare, often combined in crazy sort of Soviet collapse kind of style like, ‘I have a masters degree in mechanical engineering, am $95k in debt from student loans, work 75 hours a week at 3 jobs, Mom is dying of lymphoma and just found out I have a rare form of cancer that will cost $9k per week to treat. Got medical cannabis to offset the chemo, got stopped , searched, and beat down by police – which then cost me $2.5k in more hospital bills – stitches – and I can’t work for 2 weeks. I should have stayed home and used crazy glue. The assault cost me 2 of the 3 jobs. At least I have my freedom. I am the 99%’

  1. Xeni has also been collecting a lot of stories on her twitter, but in the context of sharing about cancer treatment. There’s a lot of intangible value to the human connections that get made this way, and I hope people don’t lose sight of that or tags become little more than feeds into a big data monster.

    1. The data monster already exists. We need to give it the right data.

      Data like: this health insurance system we have, SUCKS.

    1. I used to live in Germany, now in the UK.

      The cost of healthcare in the UK is just as bad, if not worse; it’s just hidden away in general taxation.

      And the experience is much, much worse.

      1. The total expendiure on healthcare, as a percentage of GDP at least, is higher in the US than anywhere else in the world. I suppose the absolute cost per capita might be higher in Monaco or Liechtenstein, but certainly no in the UK.

        As for the experience being worse – I’m sure the experience of millionaires is worse – they have to put up with something resembling what normal people receive.  The experience of the unemployed is surely much better, as they actually receive care.


      2.  I respectfully cry bullshit. UK tax rates + national insurance are ~25% for most workers (like much of the developed world). Along with VAT of course. I don’t know what percentage Germany’s tax rates are, but this is about the same for the majority of workers in the US (yes, the rich pay more, but so they should). It is not ‘hidden away’ in general taxation, that is what taxes are for. Paying an equivalent tax rate and then paying for health care on top of that is insane.

        And as for the experience, how is it worse? I have several family members who work for the NHS who would stridently disagree as well as my own, granted, anecdotal evidence that would say, no, it’s not. Granted, the NHS has been nickel and dimed by successive governments forcing such idiocy as compusory competitive tendering (i.e. ‘sweet, sweet tax moneys for my friends from Eton’) on it, along with disintegrating hospitals built on PPI contracts, but it’s still better than the alternative. If you want, private healthcare is indeed available which is all well and groovy for elective procedures and suchnot. But, unless you are paying top dollar for Harley St. et al, you are going to be referred to an NHS hospital as a private patient quick-smart if there’s anything seriously wrong with you, medical insurance or no. Know why? Because they have the best hospitals.

        Why anyone would want an extra layer of private bureaucracy, and it’s attendant scumbag shareholders, between them and immediate, professional healthcare is utterly beyond me.

  2. I live in Germany, the cost of health care here is not extortionate in any way.  Perhaps compared to a single payer model, if that’s what people are used to, it’s “expensive”, but compared with the U.S. it is heaven.

    1. Seriously. I’m an expat from the US to Germany, I pay 130 euros a month for decent-but-not-awesome coverage that has no hidden traps and a yearly deductible of a few hundred bucks, while I’d probably be high-risk and paying a fortune in the US. 

      Routine doctor visits are so cheap that I tend to pay out of pocket out of laziness and a desire to avoid the 20 minutes of  paperwork needed to get insurance to reimburse me.

      Compared with the US its heaven.

  3. Health insurance is ridiculous – $20k a year and they still played shenanigans with our coverage. Why, exactly, should my doctor and the pharmacist BOTH have to call in to the HMO to confirm my prescriptions EVERY SINGLE TIME I FILL? My doctor got fed up with it (30 minute call every single month he said) and said he wasn’t going to do it anymore, so the HMO stopped covering. I finally ran the numbers on what we were paying, what we were saving, and at what point a catastrophic accident would make it worth having had that insurance in the first place – what I figured out was that if the hospital bills were high enough to make what we were paying per year worth it, we’d end up being bankrupted by the co-pay anyway.  So, no insurance here, but more money available (even with the ridiculously inflated “no insurance” rates the hospitals charge).

  4. Has anyone thought to compare out-of-pocket expenses of treatments in different countries?
    Full body MRI’s at a private clinique in the Netherlands are 800 to 1500 EUR. In the UK 1200 GBP. A quick google shows that in the US, you pay from 1500 to 3000 USD. That’s quite a difference.

    It won’t solve the actual problem, but it would be interesting if, for example, a full course of chemo is less expensive in the UK or Finland, even when that means you’ll have to fly over a few times.

    Downside is that you may need to foot half of the bill in advance.

  5. Just like ace0415 I live in Germany and I am very, very fond of the german compulsory health insurance. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine living in a country where people can’t afford to go to the doctor when they’re ill. Paying around 7.5% of my income for that is absolutely worth it, IMHO.

    1. Given that I pay ~15% of my gross wages for health care coverage here in the US, 7.5% seems pretty dreamy.  Especially when you figure that I’m also paying unspoken national health care costs hidden in my taxes.

  6. National health care of course cuts out a whole layer of expensive bureaucracy who are there to decide who is or isn’t insured, and who pays for what, and billing, and cash handling, and yada-yada.

    When  everyone pays through their taxes, this admin isn’t needed.

    1. Remember Howard Dean? DOCTOR Howard Dean? All he wanted to do was get all the insurers to use the same paperwork, and he was run out of town on a rail. YYYEEEEEEAAAAARGH!

  7. I like the idea of this–the sharing of stories and anecdotes can call attention to how lousy our healthcare system is in the U.S. However, pulling statistics from it is problematic since you’re only getting those annoyed enough to respond. Take the German example. They’re often a gregarious lot, despite perceptions otherwise, and are usually not shy about sharing their opinions, so the initial perception was that their healthcare costs were “extortionist.” I haven’t researched the figures, but it appears from the posts here that a lot of people covered there don’t believe that to be the case.

    1. Kind of what I was going to say – a Twitter poll might be good for sharing stories, but it sucks for statistics.  Also you forgot the part about how much I love Amanda Palmer.

  8. yeah not getting the statistics fetish here. the stories could be good to know… although there are hundreds of stories out there already about how messed up our health care system is, and quite a few blogs, newspaper articles, etc. twitter-length stories don’t seem like the best way to get the message out.

    So what’s the big deal about generating some numbers about people who respond to AP’s tweeting on this? As a sample it is pretty flawed, and why do we care specifically about people who follow Amanda Palmer on Twitter? There is already a ton of data about health care costs and coverage already in the US, so what is this number crunching supposed to show? Whether AFP fans are more or less insured than the rest of the population? Again, why do we care?Is this giving people a voice who don’t have one? b/c again that could be done a lot better in a non-twitter format, I think.

  9. yeah re:germany health care, it’s not extortionate at all – its actually based on a percentage of your wage as an employee – you earn more, you pay more, and the service you get for this has been great, no hassle, no worrying about which provider to go to, preexisting conditions, etc etc. not sure how many contributions Palmer has received, but looks like the classic stats problem of not enough if this is her conclusion…..

  10. OK, another Germany-dweller here: healthcare in this country is not extortionate if you are within the waged & employment-contracted class, or married to/the child of someone within it, or a citizen who is unemployed, or a pensioner. It is extortionate for people who fall outside of the 8 expected German modes of being. For instance, health insurance is wildly extortionate for immigrants who work as freelancers: we are legally compelled to have it in order to be here, but nobody is legally compelled to sell it to us (unless we take them to court and force them to allow us to buy an 800€-per-month-everything-excluded-policy-of-last-resort). It’s common to hear in Berlin that health insurance costs more than 50% of the earnings of a low-earning immigrant freelancer.

    Denial of coverage of existing conditions is legal and common, as is denial of psychiatric, gynaecological and sexual health coverage. I can’t ever use my health insurance (unless I have a baby or get hit by a bus)- I pay more than my rent for it, but anything I’d want to use it for is excluded under my policy. On the other hand, going to the doctor costs 10€ uninsured, and prescriptions are also unimaginably cheap compared to costs in the US (less than 20€ a month for my daily scripts). So. Rather this than the US system, but rather a centralised state-operated tax-funded health system than either of those.

    1.  >> people who fall outside of the 8 expected German modes of being

      That totally made my day, thanks.  I’m certain there’s a 45-letter German word that means “expected modes of being”.

    2. The solution is obvious.  Immigrants should not have sex or go crazy.  They should return to their country of origin to do those things.

    3. Huh? Check out ALC healthcare. Totally affordable, german authorities were happy enough with it to grant me a visa, they denied coverage for pre-existing for the first year and then that limitation was dropped. Ping me on the twitters if you have questions.

  11. I am very thankful to live in Canada.  I just pay my income tax, and know that if I need care I will get it.  I also have some additional insurance through work (50% of dental and prescription drug costs are the main things), but it’s not really necessary for peace of mind –  when I didn’t have any extra insurance, I was never that concerned.

    In the province where we live, midwifery care is even covered – we had a home birth with wonderful midwives, amazingly thorough and attentive pre- and post-natal care, all at very little cost to ourselves.  And, apparently, at significantly less cost to the state than the far-inferior care a typical ob-gyn provides, especially when you factor in the better clinical outcomes with midwives – which I guess is why they’re starting to cover midwifery here…

Comments are closed.