Godspeed, Terry

One of my very favorite people I’ve met in this new world is Terry Heaton.

Terry has just told his friends on his blog that he is facing surgery for a tumor this week. And he is facing it without insurance.

He is approaching this with his characteristic bravery, openness, and grace.

Terry asks for our prayers. I suggest we also give him thoughts, candles, crossed fingers, and incantations.

: Terry also discusses his insurance situation in detail.

Here is another blogger, Rob Smith, who has to check himself into the hospital‘ for different reasons and he says he will not be covered. [via Glenn Reynolds]

Now that I’m also without benefit of benefits, I am paying $21,000 a year for family health insurance.

I was going to suggest to Terry that he put up a tip jar so his friends in the blogosphere could help insure him. (I’ll still suggest that.)

But the better gift to him and Rob and so many others would be the creation of a group insurance plan for bloggers. Perhaps that could be one of the fringes of creating a blog trade association. Anyone who know about such things have suggestions?

: In the meantime, Godspeed Terry. And Rob.

: UPDATE: Terry now has a tipjar up on his blog. Mutual of Blogosphere is open.

  • Michael Zimmer

    Godspeed to the millions of other Americans without adequate health care, as well.

  • Not sure if he would be covered here, but worth a look. These are the people behind the Freelancers Union posters you see in the NYC subway:


  • Amen, Michael.

  • rick_d

    Twenty-one thousand a year? As in a two and a one followed by a comma and three zeros?


    No insurance here either, for the last five months. There, but for the grace of God….

  • More immediate than a blog-insurance plan, more hands-on than prayer…We had some luck last spring rallying our community around the family of a local blogger faced with big cancer-treatment bills.

    Nashville has a strong local blog scene, and Rob Smith has many readers. Maybe an event, or series of events, could help these guys, and also raise awareness of the issues at hand.

    Here’s a report from our Greensboro fundraiser:


    And the wiki used to organize it:


  • Maybe this all can be a rallying cry to enact a single payer health care system that covers every citizen, which just about every industrialized country on Earth has. The U.S. spends more per person for worse health care than a long list of other countries.

  • Johnny, for the record, for those who are insured or wealthy, the US has the best health care in the world. It’s why people from around the globe fly here for treatment.

    It has terrible healthcare for people who don’t have money or insurance. Not because the care is bad, but because these folks have no access to it.

    Jeff, as an aside, didn’t you get COBRA when you left your job? It’s usually a much better deal than just going out onto the market, and you can keep it for two years while you shop around.

  • It is COBRA, Jenny. And it’s 18 months.

  • You are joking!! $21,000 for COBRA?? Wow. When our family had cobra is was, like $6500 per year. You’re a little older than I am, so maybe that’s part of the deal. That seems like a lot.

    You should shop around. Through professional organizations, etc. Also, look at high deductible insurance. But you probably already know all that.

  • Yes, I’m shopping. It had to do with the particular circumstances of my last plan and the rates that were charged.

  • The last insurance suggestion on buzzmachine that I recall was regarding what is rightly called “publishers liability insurance”.

    Let me recount my work on that to give folks a sense of what is involved with something like creating a medical insurance program for bloggers.

    The Media Bloggers Association found only a handful of companies even write “publishers liability insurance” and only one that would be willing to underwrite that type of insurance for a group as amorphous as “bloggers”. I began a dialogue with a broker for Chubb insurance; their view was that for such a thing to work bloggers would need to create their own “safety group” with an administrative process to vet claims. Claims would be evaluated internally against standards and requirements for coverage such as an editorial control process whereby bloggers vetted potentially defamatory or infringing or privacy-violating posts with a legal department or at least an experienced editor. I could go on but basically they would expect to see a structure similar to what exists at a newspaper or magazine. The insurance company would only evaluate claims that passed the filter of the safety group; they would expect the self-administered group of bloggers to deny only the most obvious cases.

    On top of all that, there is a much bigger problem; the insurance would only cover losses in the event of a judgement. Bloggers would be on their own as far as legal fees, court costs and any other related costs. The time between initial contact and a judgement might be years and most bloggers would be bankrupted long before then. A lawyer for the insurance company might be involved in trying to settle the case before it went to court but would be representing the interests of the insurance company not the MBA or its member.

    The conclusion of the board of the Media Bloggers Association was that a liability insurance program for bloggers was not financially viable at this time; further that the MBA would need to have an in-house legal capability to be able to take on cases on behalf of the member to spare them the costs of going to trial. It is our view that we would need 100,000 dues-paying members to make such a program financially viable. That is possible down the road but not likely in the foreseeable future especially since we do not have that many members, do not have a legal department and do not currently charge dues.

    Our best, most immediate solution was to first issue a set of guidelines for bloggers on how to avoid legal action in the first place and then provide access to pro bono attorneys through our MBA Legal Defense Initiative.

    We had discussions with the Electronic Frontier Foundaiton and they subsequently issued an excellent document on this topic. The problem with the EFF is that they are looking for “landmark” legal cases and will not take on just any case where a blogger is put on legal notice. This would not help our members except in a relative handful of exceptional cases.

    In the first six months of this “LDI” program, administed by Ronald Coleman, a lawyer and blogger and MBA board member, we have advised more than a dozen bloggers facing substantive legal threats and each was resolved in favor of the blogger.

    Jeff may recall the last time he and I discussed this was in December of last year, shortly after he had posted on this topic. It was at Harvard Law School and he had just come from discussions with some of the professors at Harvard Law School about their getting behind such an effort. That would have been a good thing but to the best of my knowledge nothing ever came from it althought the MBA would, of course, be more than happy to re-start this type of dialog.

    WIth this experience in mind, I would to have cast serious doubt on the feasibility of a medical insurance plan for bloggers at this time.

    First, since all bloggers are always ipso facto publishers it would be possible to require that a portion of all members dues go to provide publisher liability insurance. The same cannot be said for medical insurance. Most bloggers are not always and only bloggers. Most bloggers have jobs and/or insurance completely separate from their blogger; of those who don’t they may have access elsewhere (church, fraternal society, etc.). A very small percentage of members would have a short or long term need for medical insurance coverage; the pool of insured would be relatively small making it very expensive to manage risk.

    Second, as you can see from the amount of work involved with “publishers liability insurance” this would take a lot of work over a long period of time. The MBA could do it but you might be looking at five year horizon and even then I am not confident this would work.

    If it were me and I was without medical insurance today, I would seek membership in some of the freelance writer organizations and seek insurance through them. Others might join a church, fraternal society or other organization that offers a medical insurance plan to members.

    One thing the MBA can do for Terry is raise awareness of his situation. Terry Heaton is a “hat-wearing member” of the MBA who was instumental in the success of BlogNashville in May. I intend to explore with Terry what the MBA can do for him at this time and communicate that to all MBA members.

    Robert A. Cox
    Media Bloggers Association

  • Fran

    It’s absolutely shocking to me that your COBRA rates are over $21,000/year. Here in Vermont, not noted for inexpensive health care, a group rate for family coverage would be $13,500 plus $750 deductible or $8,300 for an HSA with a $3,000 deductible. Something is dreadfully wrong for your former employer or you to be hit with those rates. Of course, I still think the Vermont rates are onorous on small businesses and self-employed inviduals. At the same time, it is astonishing to be invoiced $600 for preventative care – an annual exam and a mammogram. (What a racket – yet, I routinely drop $600/year in car repairs and maintenance.)

    As a consultant you might be able to join your local Chamber of Commerce and purchase group coverage through a plan they offer to members.

  • /pd

    I dont what what COBRA is.. sound like a dangerous little snake in the grass thingy..

    Any how the suggestion of creating a global bloggers insurance sound like a great idea, Some of the bat questions

    a) How will wealth management be accomplished
    b) Will bloggers get to turn down claims or some authroized body which does cliams review ?
    c) Can bloggers sue this corporation if it gets into practice ?

    The idea is kewl, but convergence of $$$, insurance and other health issues is a reality. I think that blogspher in america needs to first promote why their government is failing them outright .. !!

    Propogate that

  • I’m so glad to know that Terry’s tumour was benign. This would have been a good use of a GivingGroup had he sought to raise funds for his treatment.

    Take a look at welovemeghan.givemeaning.com In less than four weeks, this GivingGroup raised $32,000 for this young woman who has had cancer three times. It was initiated by a family member of hers and just through emails to friends and family, the money was raised.

  • Alex

    Why not a fraternal association for bloggers? Fraternals were huge before the 1930’s and outnumbered trade unions 18 million to 10 million people!
    Fraternals usually have offered life insurance and annuities, some fraternals had contracts with Doctors where the member would pay $1 or $2 a year and would be covered for basic office visits for a year! One fraternal in Kansas actually owned a hospital, charged $10 for a hospital visit and $1 a day to stay in the hospital! The fraternal usually lost money by owning the hospital, but that was covered by the profits it made from the insurance operations!

    A fraternal is a 501-c-10 nonprofit organization. I imagine health insurance could be added as a benefit of membership. As a group, the health insurance probably would end up costing less than commercial insurance. The group should be inclusive, bloggers should be admitted not on earnings, but by the simple fact that they are blogging.

    It could work!

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