How Occupy Wall Street is affecting healthcare and social media

By Kelly Mehler
10:38 AM

The advocacy group Health Care for America Now has had a loud voice in the healthcare reform debate over the past three years. The company started a Tumblr blog titled "We are the 99 percent," where followers submit photos of themselves holding a sheet of paper, with a message as to why they choose to occupy Wall Street. The site states: "We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution." The list goes on.

One 17-year-old freshman attending community college posted this week: "A job should not be the difference between getting to be able to pay for dialysis or suffering from kidney failure. I am the 99%"

Another blogger explained that her father is unemployed due to disabilities obtained on the job. "He's in need of health insurance," the young woman wrote on her section of paper. "But he is not eligible for Medicare because he could be covered on my mom's health insurance... if she adds him, she would owe her job $$ each month and have no take home income. We are the 99%."

One young child held up her sign, printed on pink construction paper, which read: "I am 2 years old. I am healthy. My mommy works for a small business. No private programs for kids only anymore. I am uninsured. I am the 99%."

This Tumblr blog has collected over 550 comments nationwide. Other reasons bloggers gave for occupying Wall Street related to healthcare includes out-of-pocket expenses and doctor-ordered care form requirements.

One Twitter user, @yannispappas, is encouraging those who consider themselves part of the 99 percent to take their opinions about the healthcare system to Wall Street. "Please everyone tweet or go to occupy Wall Street," he tweeted Monday afternoon. "It's a movement, not a march. We deserve healthcare and corporate responsibility."

@TheJLivengood doesn't understand why the protesters are demanding change in healthcare reform. "How can the occupy Wall Street protesters demand that healthcare be not-for-profit?" She tweeted. "Med school is $250,000!"

User @pathtotyranny also seems bitter. With a sarcastic tone, he tweeted that the protestors are demanding free food, housing and healthcare. "The New York cops put them in jail where they'll get all three."

"Of course," @Atlantic_Health tweeted at @HITNewsTweet, "the purpose of #healthcare should be wellness. Not everything is about money, especially for patients."

The debate is heating up directly on Facebook, too. The Facebook Page "Occupy Wall Street," listed as a movement page, contains video of the protests and people sharing stories and photos.

The group moderator shared a YouTube video taken Tuesday, of a war veteran being arrested by the Boston police. As of Thursday, there have been over 50 shares of the video, along with over 50 comments, where members have both agreed and disagreed with the incident. 

Matthew Stephens commented on the video. "This [protesting] is our right as Americans, guaranteed in our Declaration and protected by the Constitution," he wrote. "Don't let anybody tell you otherwise."

Later on in the day, Travis Hansen responded to commenters, proposing his own question. "If I understood exactly what it is they want to achieve, it [the protests] would be more reasonable."

Almost every uploaded YouTube video or open-ended question has over 100 respondents. The Facebook group itself has over 56,000 members. Users come from the left, the right and middle, in hopes that their voices will be heard.

Angus Webster shared his concerns by writing on the Facebook wall of the group. The self-employed insurance broker said that he paid more in taxes last year then most people make in a quarter. "To be honest I paid 30% in taxes. All I want is it to be a level playing field in terms of taxes. Beyond that I would like us to have free health care, inexpensive colleges, no property taxes and an income from the government if we can't find a job."

Another user, Kevin Smith, believes that the protestors are only wasting more time and money – the taxpayer's money. "Three weeks after protesters first hunkered down in New York City, the city has spent more than $1.9 million in overtime to dispatch police for crowd control during protests" he wrote on the wall. "Thanks for wasting more tax dollars on your unorganized movement."

As of this week, it seems more Twitter users are urging those to take on the health insurers. Perhaps that will be next week's focus around the nation. This is mainly due to a retweeted statement that Wendell Potter, former vice president of communications at CIGNA and infamous insurance whistleblower, said this week in a Huffington Post blog urging people to focus on the health insurance side of the industry.

If you have an opinion on the topic, tweet at us @HITNewsTweet.