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.

To learn about upcoming Town Halls in your area, sign up for our email list.

PPF-PA Statewide Healthcare Survey – Take it Today!

Put People First! PA invites you to participate in building a grassroots movement for health and dignity in our state by taking our healthcare survey and sharing it with your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and other community members. Over the next two months, our Healthcare is a Human Right campaign will engage 400 people across PA, from every region and from a diversity of backgrounds in exploring our experiences with the healthcare system. We have already collected 100 surveys in person from door-knocking and tabling, and we launch our online survey today! Take the survey here. Take the survey in Spanish here.


This survey was designed by Put People First! Pennsylvania, a member-led organization of Pennsylvania residents who are struggling to meet basic needs like healthcare, jobs, housing, food, education, transportation, and a healthy environment. Our Healthcare Is a Human Right campaign is dedicated to making sure that everyone in Pennsylvania can get the care they need. The purpose of our survey is to deepen our understanding about your lived experiences with healthcare and dental care, both in the past year and over the past 10 years. The survey is an important tool to ensure that our campaign aligns with what the residents of our state need, and with it comes an invitation to you to get involved. The survey should take about 10 minutes of your time or less to complete. If you would like to share your healthcare story, learn more about our campaign, or find out how you can get involved, you can get in touch with us here. Any information you provide will be completely separate from your survey so that all your survey responses remain anonymous.


Through ongoing engagement with our neighbors and communities via free health screening clinics, human rights hearings, fundraising for people in healthcare crisis, direct action and legislative strategies we are building a people’s movement for health and dignity throughout our state. Your experiences and your voice matter to us.


More information on the survey: Our survey has been designed to meet rigorous standards with members of Put People First! PA Organizing Committees in Central and Southeast PA under the advisement of PPF members Jamie Longazel, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Dayton, and Ben Palmquist of the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative.  Results will be shared with the public via a variety of channels including one or more of the following: a report on the findings, info-graphics, digital stories of respondents, release events and community conversations.

Team of PPF Members volunteer and administer the Healthcare Survey at the Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic in Harrisburg, PA
Team of PPF Members volunteer and administer the Healthcare Survey at the Mission of Mercy Dental Clinic in Harrisburg, PA

Statement of Support for the Vermont Workers Center

Put People First! PA Stands with the Vermont Workers Center

Put People First! PA stands with the Vermont Workers Center in this critical time.  Right before Christmas, Vermont Governor Shumlin backtracked on his commitment to follow through on Act 48, a state law passed in 2011 requiring the state of Vermont to provide health care as a public good to all residents by 2017.
The Vermont Workers Center’s Healthcare is a Human Right campaign, launched in 2008 and victorious in passing Act 48 in 2011, is the foundation on which a statewide movement built to scale. The campaign offers a real solution to meet one of our most basic needs, and elevates expectations of our political system – to meet human needs equitably and put people before profit.
The campaign built solidarity between working families who are citizens and undocumented communities, using the guiding principle of universality combined with political development of leaders to ensure a spirit of “unite and resist” as opposed to “divide and conquer”. When the legislature tried to exclude the undocumented from Act 48, VWC members rejected this false choice designed to crush the movement and defeated the measure. Act 48 passed in 2011 as the first truly universal state health care bill in the US. Continue reading Statement of Support for the Vermont Workers Center

Demonstrating what our human right to health care looks like

Demonstrating what our human right to health care looks like

Put People First Free Health Screening Clinics in PA Communities

by Ash Robbins

This Summer Put People First held Health Screening Clinics at outdoor community events in Central and Southeast Pennsylvania. Volunteer nurses offered blood pressure and blood sugar screenings along with education about chronic disease. Put People First members had meaningful conversations with people about their health and human rights, as well as the social, economic, and environmental root causes of health inequity.

The clinics are a way of meeting people’s immediate needs while also connecting people to collective action. The goal is to expand our membership base and offer a health service that helps us imagine a health care system based in the belief that health care is a human right. Continue reading Demonstrating what our human right to health care looks like