Put People First! PA to erase $1.5 million of medical debt in Western PA

WHO: Put People First! PA and RIP Medical Debt

WHAT: Campaign to Abolish Medical Debt in Western Pennsylvania

WHERE: Online at https://secure.qgiv.com/event/putpeoplefirst

WHEN: Launches April 2, 2019

Pittsburgh, PA— Put People First! PA, a statewide volunteer-based organization of poor and dispossessed working class people fighting for healthcare, is teaming up with RIP Medical Debt to abolish medical debt in 18 Western PA counties.

RIP Medical Debt is a national 501c3 nonprofit organization that uses donations to purchase bundled medical debt portfolios that have gone through collection agencies for months or years. Using third-party credit data providers, it targets debt incurred by people facing financial hardship, and then forgives it. For every $1 dollar raised, $100 in medical debt is abolished. Since 2014, RIP has relieved more than $450 million in medical debt for individuals across the U.S., impacting over 250,000 individuals.

Put People First! PA’s campaign to abolish medical debt in Western Pennsylvania will raise $15,000 to buy back and absolve $1.5 million of medical debt currently burdening over 1,700 people in the following counties: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Fayette, Forrest, Greene, Indiana, Jefferson, Lawrence, Mercer, Warren, Washington, Westmoreland, Venango. Those who make less than 2 times the federal poverty level, have a debt that is 5% or more of their annual income, and/or who are insolvent will have their medical debt forgiven.

“We believe that no one should ever have to choose between getting the care they need and having a roof over their head, transportation or food to eat – not in the richest country in the world. Currently the powers that be believe profit for the healthcare industry is more important than our lives. Because we know what they’re going through, we want to relieve these families of their pain, and also show that a healthcare system that puts us into debt is immoral and needs to be replaced,” remarked Hope Koss of Johnstown, coordinator of the fundraising campaign.

Across the nation, and in Pennsylvania, medical debt is a leading cause of homelessness. The stress of debt and dealing with insurance companies and bill collectors makes health conditions worse. As just one example, last year the American Journal of Medicine reported that almost half of cancer patients drain their life’s assets within two years and are almost three times as likely to file for bankruptcy than those without cancer, which puts them at risk for early death.

You can donate and find out more at  https://secure.qgiv.com/event/putpeoplefirst. To get involved in organizing for healthcare rights in Pennsylvania visit www.putpeoplefirstpa.org


As part of ongoing work to promote political clarity in PPF! PA, the Political Education and Leadership Development Team (PELD) and PPF members statewide participated in a January 2019 Winter Reading Group (WRG). The group read four chapters of the forthcoming Kairos Center book; A New and Unsettling Force, Vol. 2, Reigniting Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Poor People’s Campaign. Check the book out here online.                                    

The chapter essays are co-authored by leaders who draw from both scholarship and the lessons of existing struggles of the poor and dispossessed on many fronts of today’s conditions of crisis. “Together they reflect on economics, history, religion and social change, drawing from their diverse experiences and backgrounds”.

The following are reflections written by HRC members from Lancaster and Johnstown who took part in this year’s five insightful weekly readings and discussions.

I learned a lot from the readings insight with taking a hard look on the way charity is used as a way to cover up inequality. Like providing a band-aid for a broken leg. Peoples struggles are being treated like individual cases rather than failures of the system we live in. All the while making rich people using charity as spectacle to make them look like saviors and generous. This critique highlights four functions of charity; ideological, political, moral, and material.

Maddy, Johnstown HRC

 The winter reading group really opened my eyes to how throughout history the poor have been set up to fail. From the oppression of the empires years ago to today. The way systemic racism has been used to keep minority groups in poverty. How the system uses the working class and how charity is their way of dealing with our problems. Instead of fixing the root lying issues that cause poverty, the rich just work to divide the poor to keep them under foot and profit off the backs of the workers. It was a great group and I am looking forward to the next one.

Matt, Lancaster HRC

The winter reading was a clear explanation of the dynamics of class, revolution, how the ruling classes maintain control through things such a charity, and Dr. King’s beliefs. It brought me to a clearer understanding of where I stand in relation to the crises of the day, and educated me in Dr. King’s true viewpoints, as opposed to the revisionist history of King that is usually upheld. The working class must remain unified, and that is only through being politically educated, and understanding how we’re divided by the ruling classes manipulating us by hiding behind our spirituality, or cloaking their intentions through charity.

Mustapha, Johnstown HRC

On February 12, 2019 parents in Philadelphia and across the PA descended on Philadelphia City Hall for an action and public hearing to testify to the abuses of the Department of Human Services (DHS) and to demand an end to the forced separation of children from their parents. Philadelphia has the highest child removal and family separation in the U.S.

The following day, the PA Poor People’s Campaign Underground Railroad hosted a call in day for PPF member Jennina. Dozens called in to demand the Blair County custody office comply with the judge’s order to start visitations for her children immediately. Jennina has not heard a response from the custody office, and actions will continue.

This Friday, March 8th from 5-9 pm in Philadelphia join PA Poor People’s Campaign partner International Women’s Strike and Every Mother is a Working Mother to “Speak Out Against Family Separation!”

Check out this new edition of The Keystone: Fayette Health Justice Issue Winter 2019. The Keystone is a publication by members of Put People First! PA that comes out twice a year. This is a special edition created by the Fayette Health Justice Healthcare Rights Committee.

The Keystone: Fayette Health Justice Issue Winter 2019