3 People to Follow Today

It’s #FollowFriday on Twitter. And it’s Friday in real life, meaning that by 4:15 this afternoon you’ll be looking for a diversion to close out the workweek. Here are three websites and social media feeds I recommend. This week’s theme: health.

Digital Champion Logo

Aaron Bramley is just a guy like any other. He eats cheese fries, kicks ass at Oregon Trail and wears ironic t-shirts from the ’80s1. Oh, there is one difference: He has cancer, for which he’s been undergoing chemotherapy. Which would be manageable, except that his insurance company kinda sorta finds paying his medical bills bothersome and just decided, eh, they weren’t going to do it.

So Aaron did what any tech-savvy thirtysomething would do: He took the fight online, challenging his insurance company’s CEO to speak with him in a series of online articles called Working with Health Net Is Worse than Chemotherapy, which he published on Medium.com. Believe it or not, public shaming worked. Although he didn’t speak to the CEO, he did talk several times to the VP of customer service, who insisted that he was an “outlier” and that most people received excellent customer service.

Aaron cried foul, knowing from his experiences talking to other cancer patients that many of them were having the same difficulties with their insurance. To demonstrate as much, he started The Digital Champion, a forum where people could go to post their health insurance horror stories. Go there now and join the campaign to make health insurance companies more accountable to their customers. While you’re at it, follow Aaron on Twitter at @AaronMSB.

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Depression is neither funny nor warm, but Emerald Russell is both. After years of being the bubbliest gal in the room and not mentioning the other other Big D2, she decided it was time to open up about what was really going on inside. What resulted was a video series chronicling the role depression played in her life. Though she started it with the intention of helping others without pretending to be “all better”, she found something even more remarkable: She felt more supported. After years of not talking about her depression lest it make her vulnerable, she found safety in speaking candidly about it. It’s a wonderful reminder of what can happen when we’re honest about ourselves to others. You can find Emerald at DepressionDiaries.org or EmeraldRussell.com, where she makes beautiful websites.

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My wife found Kevin McDevitt as a result of this video, which eventually found its way to Time Magazine. Then she started noting the similarities in our stories: We were both young, healthy guys who wound up with severe aplastic anemia. He had just gotten married when his health deteriorated; I had just become a father. And we were both writers. Not everyone wants to read multiple blogs about a rare disease, but I did. And Kevin’s raw, honest and sometimes angry take on what was happening made me feel better about my own experience, even if it was uniquely my own.

I remember in particular one post he wrote about his own search to find others with aplastic anemia. He kept track of a young woman who had received a transplant, and he wrote about how the messages from her were getting increasingly short and more worrisome until one day her posts just stopped. He knew from the silence what had happened. I’m glad that Kevin’s recovery has been a happier one: He celebrated his first anniversary of his transplant last month. Check out his story at kevmcdev.com, or follow him on Twitter at @CreativSurvivor.

  1. Actually, I just made all of this up, but at least one has got to be true. []
  2. I don’t mean Dallas. []

6 Comments 3 People to Follow Today

  1. Peter Bramley

    Thank you Jeff for the nice article about Aaron. Yup, the insurance industry isn’t going down without a fight. I’m delighted that guys like you and Aaron are out there swinging and punching away.

    Best,

    Peter (Sarah and Aaron’s dad)

    Reply
    1. Jeff

      I think it’s great what Aaron’s doing. And the fact that he’s been able to be so persistent and vocal — despite everything else that’s going on — is incredible.

      Reply
  2. Debra

    Years ago I had a bad reaction to an antibiotic medicine I was taking. I was alone and frightened because my throat was closing up. I called 911 and at the hospital got a med to counteract the scary reaction.

    The insurance refused to pay the $800 dollar bill because my issue wasn’t serious enough. Seriously!!!!! I talked to the adjuster on the phone and sent a letter.

    After several months, I was told they would pay this time but better not do that again.

    Once again—-SERIOUSLY!!!!

    I don’t recall which insurance company it was at that time. It was a budget HMO.
    Fortunately that company left the area—Northern CA—and then we got Blue Cross as an insurance provider.

    Reply
  3. Becky Thomasson

    Thank you so much for helping spread the word about legitimate struggles with health insurance companies. It is terrible to take advantage of people who are ill.

    Reply

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