How It Happened

Health care, activist

The ninth denial letter from Dawn’s health insurance company arrived when she answered MoveOn.org’s call for health care stories. The call gave the former writer what she wanted most: an opportunity to get treatment for her rare brain tumor and to amplify the voices of Americans drowned out by the health care reform debate.

Over 100,000 voices joined MoveOn.org’s petition to Dawn’s health insurance company to cover treatment for her brain tumor. The response was quick. CIGNA promised to cover one week of tests. Dawn knew she would have little leverage to gain coverage for treatment once MoveOn.org was gone. She used the window of time in the spotlight to champion struggling families without publicity.

While partisans wrangled over talking points, the Stand with Dawn campaign traveled through five states, visiting homes, businesses and churches, listening to the hearts of everyday Americans. “Tell them our stories,” they said stuffing testimonials and photos of loved ones into her hands.

More voices were out there. When MoveOn.org challenged its members nationwide to share their health care stories, over 20,000 flooded in. Dawn shared them–from the veteran fighting for care after his organ transplant to the mom who cleared her savings to care for her adult daughter. She relayed their tales to media, politicians and CIGNA executives with passion and urgency.

Dawn’s concern for the dignity of these stories, and growing strains on her health and finances, convinced her to leave the Stand with Dawn campaign. She relinguished her health insurance and closed her writing company soon after. The stories and one question haunted her:

“If so many patients swim through a river of “no,” why do we allow health care to be at the mercy of politics?”

“It makes sense when you say it,” said a republican friend referring to health care reform. The admission was a revelation. MoveOn.org’s presentation of Dawn as a health care victim inspired progressives. When her words were unvarnished, many democrats, republicans and independents agreed that, when it comes to the equalizer known as illness, bad things happen to anyone.

Dawn desperately wanted to talk. Brain tumor symptoms and an unsuccessful radiation treatment had affected her ability to write. Her mother challenge her to revive It Could Happen to Anyone in a limited capacity, even if only to transcribe a few sentences at a time.

Because conversation is a prescription for a divided America, It Could Happen to Anyone is our collective story.