Terri Carlson has been proposed to well over 1,000 times this week.
The 45-year-old divorced mother from California has taken her search for a husband worldwide via YouTube
, and while she says she is looking for love, there's something she's looking for even more: health insurance.
"I don't care what you look like. But what I do care about is how good your health insurance is. So, you want me to respond to you? Attach your health-care benefit information," she practically purrs into the Web cam.
Below the video, a line of comments continues to grow: "I sent you a message an hour ago on a different video, but let me add, with military insurance, as long as we use a military doctor, it's free and it's for life. I offer this to you. Contact me!"
"I am not a drinker, and I don't smoke or ever hit a woman. I don't argue, I am 55, decent-looking and financially responsible," says one potential husband.
Another reply simply states, "Give Canada a shot."
The attention is flattering, but Carlson also knows that the flirting could save her life.
Tired of waiting for health-care reform that she no longer believes is coming, last week she launched Will Marry for Health Insurance
, a Web site on which she lays herself, and her problems, out for all the world to see. Ever since, the media has flocked.
But is she a savvy victim, a poster woman for the uninsured masses? Or maybe even a reality TV star in the making? After the jump, Lemondrop's exclusive interview with the embattled mom.
First, what exactly is ailing her? Carlson has a rare genetic disorder called C4 Complement Deficiency -- an autoimmune disease that prevents her body from being able to fight off infection. "I'll get over a virus, but I have all of these antibodies that won't clear out of my body," she told Lemondrop. "My body thinks there is still an infection even though there's not and attacks itself."
Carlson's doctors keep her on steroids to keep inflammation down, and antibiotics to treat the immune suppression side effects of the steroids. On a good day, she's only taking 10 different prescriptions. On a bad day, it could be 20.
After her divorce, Carlson, who was a stay-at-home mother to four children for 24 years, discovered that while she was eligible for government assistance programs like Social Security, she didn't have the 10 or so years in the workforce required to be supported. LD: So tell us a little bit about your hunt for health coverage. Terri Carlson:
Well, it really started a week ago this past Sunday when (Scott) Brown was elected to the Senate. On Christmas Eve, I was crying because they passed the health-care bill. I was so hopeful. I thought, "This is great. I'm going to have health coverage."
My COBRA runs out in May 2011. I was so excited because I have a life-long illness, and I have all of this genetic testing that they use as a scarlet letter to un-insure me. But when Brown was elected by Massachusetts, there was an article in the newspaper that said the health-care reform bill was on life support, and I thought, Oh my God. What's going to happen to me in a year?
Right now as it is, 90 percent of what I make just goes to pay my health care. Luckily I have my house, but if I didn't, I wouldn't be able to pay everything. I have a small savings left over from my divorce, but once that's over, I don't know what I'm going to do.
Are you not eligible for health care through your job?
This is what's ironic. I worked really hard to get a job with an organization -- I told them that I wouldn't mention the name -- that hires people with disabilities to work from home. So I have this job where I'm able to be productive and make money where I normally wouldn't, but everybody who works for the company is disabled and they can't get health care because the insurance company says, "Everybody who works for you is disabled. We're going to charge you a fortune to keep all of these disabled people on your policy."
It's infuriating, but here's the other thing that kind of ticks me off: All of the able-bodied workers who run the office, the healthy people, all have health care through the company. I feel so discriminated against. You can offer health care to them, but you can't offer health care to me? I was informed that they had something called a HIPAA, where you could go, and it's this new law where the insurance company has to keep you, but you know what they want? They want $1,200 a month. I only bring home $800 a month. And that's without food, shelter, anything. I would be in the hole almost $400 a month.
I'm literally the one who's caught in the middle. I work my ass off every day. I pay my taxes. And it came last Sunday where I'm just like, "What am I going to do?" I was in the hospital the day before yesterday. I got back from New York, collapsed and had a seizure. People don't understand. I look pretty good, but I suffer every day. Where did the idea for the site and the YouTube videos come from?
This literally came out of my desperation. They're not going to pass health-care reform, so what are my options? Friends and I were joking, and one friend said, "Well, you could always marry some guy who has a good policy." And I thought, You know what. That's crazy. That's unbelievable, but it's my only option.
It truly is my only option.
The first video came a week ago Sunday. I told a friend that I was going to do a video and post it on YouTube. She thought it was so funny. I had never done a video before. I'm just a mom. But I set it up and I did it. I did a serious one, a little woe-is-me -- asking for suggestions. Well, nobody clicked on it. My girlfriend said that it was because I needed to be sillier. She said they don't watch anything unless it's outrageous. So then I started to be more flirtatious. I tried to be more humorous, and then people started hitting on it. They started saying, "Oh my gosh, you need to do another one."
Then a friend suggested that I get the Web site that says Will Marry for Health Insurance. I went to GoDaddy.com, paid $1.99 for a year for the name and paid $5 for the site. So for $7 and a YouTube video, all of this happened. How many responses have you had?
By the time I had my first interview with the media, I had 100 proposals. As of yesterday, I had 7,000 messages in my inbox from around the world. Half of those are probably proposals, and the other half are from suffering people. People just like me. They have the most heartbreaking stories. They're saying things like, "You're a voice for us," and "Please help us." It just breaks my heart.
I've also just got a contract where they want to do a reality series where they follow me as I go dates with these guys who've written in to my Web site. I'm looking at it right now. It's for a production company that produces it and then sells it to the network. Are you thinking about doing it?
I really don't know. All I really wanted out of this was to just have health insurance or to be able to buy health insurance. My goal isn't to make any money, and I'm not sure I could do it with my health. I'm not making any decisions now. You got so many actual propositions from men who have seen the videos, will you live up to your tag line? Will you marry someone for health insurance?
Before this idea came up, I was already looking for love. I was already on Match.com. When you're filling out something for a dating Web site you say that you want brown hair or blue eyes. I don't think that asking that someone have good health insurance is any different than asking for someone to be a certain religion. I think it's additional criteria. I think that out of all of these thousands of emails, I can have good health insurance and love at the same time. But I do know this: I wouldn't marry anyone without good health insurance. There's no way. I can't. But yes, I plan to be married within the next year. Logistically speaking, how are you going to meet all of these men?
I've been so overwhelmed with all of the responses, but I'm going to go through every one and respond to everyone as best I can. It might take me a while, but I'm going to do that as soon as everything calms down a little bit. A lot of my proposals are from Massachusetts where they have universal care and a large portion are from Canada. People from Canada are really freaked out by this. This concept to people in Canada, it's surreal.
I mean how is it possible that I live in the wealthiest country in the world and can't get health insurance? One of the things I put in one of my videos -- and it's so true -- at one point I seriously thought about selling all of my assets, giving them to my children and going and robbing a bank. Because then I could go to jail and I could get three meals a day for free, I could work out and I could get health care.
I have a problem with the fact that I'm someone who works hard every day, and yet someone who is a drain on society and commits a crime can get better health care than me. I'm a hard-working person who's never had a speeding ticket. That just shows how screwed up our system is. This whole thing came out of my frustration and what I needed, but I realize that there are just so many other people right there with me. So what do your friends and family think?
The people who have been friends of mine for a long time have sat with me as I've been in the hospital. They've seen me struggle and they've been worried. I mean, I almost died last year. In the hospital, I wrote President Obama. I wrote my local congressmen and senators, and they didn't even respond at all. Now all of a sudden I'm in the media, and I get messages on my phone saying, "Oh, we want to help." Well, no one wanted to help me a year ago when I was begging. It irritates me, but my friends are all proud of me. My children are proud of me. I have so much support.
What would you tell Congress or the president if you could have a conversation with them?
It would be simple: While you are all fighting between the Senate and the House and bickering, people like me are suffering and dying. While they're fighting, we're the ones suffering. I feel like the Republicans now are just trying to say no to everything instead of trying to make a point to pass the thing that they all agree upon, which is the pre-existing conditions clause. They're being stubborn children. People are suffering while they're taking their time. The fact that you may need to depend on a spouse to survive feels like a throwback to Jane Austen. How does it feel to be a woman in the 21st century who may need to rely on a man to make it?
Well, I would say this: Wouldn't an illegal immigrant marry an American to have U.S. citizenship? It makes them dependent, but they're willing to do it so that they can come to our country. I don't think it's that different. I don't think it's prehistoric. It's not like an arranged marriage. I have a choice. I'm not just selling myself out to the first person who has health insurance. I have choices, but believe me, people have done a lot worse for a lot less.
Tell us: Would you marry for health care -- or what would you do if you were in Carlson's place? More Good Stuff on the Web:
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