Insurance Town Halls: Reflection from Altoona

By Danelle Morrow, PPF member in Johnstown, PA

On August 14th in Altoona, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department held the second of nine promised Town Hall meeting about ACA/Obamacare insurance rate hikes. We won these Town Halls — making them an official part of the rate-setting process — after more than a year of organizing and putting pressure on the PID and insurance companies.

The Altoona Town hall was a successful gathering, with about 25 people in attendance, about 6 of us from PPF. There were several residents that learned about the meeting though a letter to the editor that was published in 5 counties, and it is clear they have some serious concerns. The insurance department answered many questions, and it is clear they are feeling pressure to take the side of the people and not the companies. Stating that, if they don’t make the adjustments (rate increases) that insurance companies have requested, it is possible the companies will pull out of the ACA completely, leaving us with no insurance companies to choose from. To us, that sounds like the insurance companies trying to hold us hostage. Still leaving with unanswered questions, that I’m not sure anybody could answer, the fight carries on.

Though I feel the Town Hall was a success, I feel there should have been more open space for individuals to speak out: too much time in the meeting was taken up with presentations and explanations from the PID, instead of with the stories and concerns of residents. I also wish that the insurance companies themselves had showed up: we wanted the chance to address them directly, so they could see how their demands and their high profits are affecting us. We continue to learn and find ways to strategize after every action and we will continue seeking the change in policy needed to win health care for every person in PA!

Something I noticed at the Altoona Town Hall was that most of the people that attended on their own were seniors, and even veterans. There were not many people there under the age of 50. I would like to encourage the younger people of this state to attend a Town hall in your area to show the Insurance Department that you care, that you feel health care is a Human Right. We can say it all we want, until we prove that it really matters they are not going to take us seriously. On that note, there were a few in Altoona that felt that Health care is not a Human Right, and this was the perfect opportunity to find out why they feel that way and challenge their way of thinking. As young people in PA, we need to stand up NOW to save the future for our children, so they do not have to suffer with the same struggles we have come to know as the norm.

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Put People First! PA joins nationwide effort to defend Medicaid, fight ACA repeal without better replacement and call for universal healthcare!

**MEDIA ADVISORY FOR WEDNESDAY, JULY 19**

Contact: Nijmie Dzurinko, Put People First Campaign Team (484) 619-2306

Put People First! PA joins nationwide effort to defend Medicaid, fight ACA repeal without better replacement and call for universal healthcare!

In wake of healthcare bill collapse, constituents from across the country plan to flood Capitol Hill to protest senators who have not spoken up against ACA repeal and demand universal, quality healthcare as a human right.

People with disabilities and life-threatening chronic illnesses, cancer survivors, Medicaid recipients, Affordable Care Act (ACA) policyholders, registered nurses, doctors, and others directly impacted by the potential repeal of ACA will descend upon Capitol Hill on Wednesday, July 19, to send one clear message: Stop trying to kill the ACA, and instead move towards universal healthcare for all.

The Republican healthcare bill may not have enough votes to go forward, but GOP senators have signaled they will still proceed with a vote to repeal the ACA. Hundreds of people will risk arrest in acts of civil disobedience —
a sign of just how critical it is to them that their Senators hear their pleas not to put their lives and those of people they love at risk by stripping protections for preexisting conditions, essential health benefits, and other key features of the ACA that have allowed 20 million Americans to access coverage since its implementation. The protesters will call for Senators to instead support a single payer, Medicare for All system, that would ensure guaranteed health care to every person living in the United States.

“I’m getting arrested today because healthcare is a human right. Our lives are at stake and we have to go forwards, not backwards. We have to get the profit out of the healthcare system,” remarked Put People First member Nijmie Dzurinko from Philadelphia.

WHAT: National Town Hall Meeting on Health Care, massive civil disobedience in Senate offices

SCHEDULE, Wed, July 19:
1pm National Town Hall on Healthcare, open to the press.
St. Mark’s Church 301 St St SE, Washington DC. Please arrive at 12:30PM

After the town hall, around 2 p.m., hundreds of constituents from almost every state in the country will stepping off to hit the office of EVERY senator who has not come out against repeal, and participating in civil disobedience to demand health care for all.

PGH: Put People First! PA and SEIU Healthcare PA hold memorial, call for better care and wages outside of local nursing home

Put People First! PA and SEIU Healthcare PA hold memorial, call for better care and wages outside of local nursing home

On Saturday afternoon about 20 people rallied outside of ManorCare Health Services – Pittsburgh, calling for better care for patients and better wages for workers at the facility. The protest was led by the family of Wanda Moore Evans, who passed away last year after receiving substandard care at the facility. Ms. Evans’ husband Bukari Bey and daughter Munroe Bey are leaders of Put People First! PA, a statewide grassroots organization working to ensure healthcare is treated as a human right in Pennsylvania. They were joined by other members of Put People First as well as members of SEIU Healthcare PA, a union representing nursing home workers throughout Pennsylvania.

Ms. Evans spent the last several weeks of her life at ManorCare, following a ruptured blood clot in her leg which left her on life-support. During her time at ManorCare, her personal hygiene was consistently neglected and she was hospitalized three times due preventable incidents. In one instance, she was hospitalized after being dropped by a staff person because the staff person was required to carry Ms. Evans by herself.

According to data collected by Medicare, the ManorCare Health Services – Pittsburgh provides 57 minutes less skilled nursing care staff time per patient, per day than the national average[1]. Last year the facility was cited by the PA Department of Health for 10 deficiencies during one inspection[1].

At 2:00pm the group gathered on the sidewalk across the street from the nursing home. Munroe Bey was the first to speak, “We are here because in the last 30 days of my mother’s life she experienced the worst neglect: neglect that ultimately took her life. We are standing here for all of those who are concerned about the quality of care in nursing homes across the state of Pennsylvania. We are not going to tolerate abuse of elders.”

The group marched down the block chanting “People over profit,” and “We ain’t got no use for elder abuse”. They held signs reading ‘Dignity for our Elders’, ‘Dignity for Caregivers’, and ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Vespera Barrow, another leader of Put People First! PA, led the march across the street to the front of the ManorCare building, where she spoke through a bullhorn, “ManorCare is one of the largest nursing home chains in the country. They are making huge profits by providing a minimum standard of care, understaffing their facilities, and underpaying their workers.”

In 2006, HCR ManorCare’s CEO Paul Ormond received $17.3 million in total compensation[2], while Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) at ManorCare facilities make an estimated, $11.81 an hour on average[3]. Ms. Barrow continued, “We are demanding that ManorCare increase staffing levels to above the national average, and that ManorCare pay all of its workers a living wage so they are fairly compensated to provide good care for our elders.”

The event concluded with the release of a dozen white balloons to memorialize Ms. Evans. As, the balloons floated away Ms. Evans’ husband Bukari Bey spoke, “We all love you and we miss you so much Wanda. And we are just going to keep on fighting baby.”

1. https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare
2. http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2007/04/07/Manor-Care-boss-got-17-3M-in-06.html
3. https://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/HCR-ManorCare-Salaries-E354848.htm

How Put People First says “yes” to universality

Read an excerpt from a workshop by PPF member, leader and co-founder Nijmie Dzurinko at the Philly Leadership Institute last month!

One way that a human rights framework is strategic is that when we talk of universality, it’s about opening up the space. We need healthcare for people who are locked up. We need healthcare for people who are undocumented. We need healthcare for people who are queer and trans. So if you say “yes” to universality, you are saying “yes” to that whole thing. And we can’t back down from that.

And so the human rights principles are very strategic because they allow us to say “Our class, of poor and dispossessed people has people from every race, from every ethnic group, from every gender, from every ability, from every part of the state, from every status, and we can’t be separated.” We are all part of the same class. We can build and bring in all those people, because we need all those people. Like Danelle said [in our Healthcare is a Human Right campaign video]: That there are more of us who need this, who are fighting for this, than there are people who are trying to prevent us from getting it. No one in this room is one of those people who are trying to prevent us from getting our needs met, we don’t have the power to do that, we don’t have the decision-making power, we aren’t in that place. If you are, please identify yourself!

We are not those people who are making those decisions, and supporting those systems, propping those systems up. We are people who don’t agree with that, and saying “You know what — just because you are doing that, that’s not an Act Of God.” Those are human decisions and human systems created by human beings. And we are all human beings, and we can change those systems. We can change those conditions. We can change those circumstances. And the more that we believe that, and stop believing that they are “Acts Of God,” that “the market” is some kind of unseen force that has different moods on different days and feels like different things. Those kinds of ideas cause us to not realize that we do have power to change systems, and to change those forces.

I also want to situate our work in the Black Radical Tradition of building multi-racial poor people’s movements that started in the foundation of this country, with things like Bacon’s Rebellion. It continued on through Reconstruction, it continued on through the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, through Fred Hampton and the Original Rainbow Coalition, through the Poor People’s Campaign, through the Homeless Union organizing in the 1980s, and it continues on through the legacy of Put People First. Those are the traditions that we come out of.