The Fall 2016/Winter 2017 Newsletter is here! Our bi-annual newsletter is hot off the presses, chock full of great contributions from our members. This past year has been an amazing one for Put People First! Read about the “2016 Summer of Action”  including articles like “PPF Wins Insurance Department Hearing on ACA Premium Hikes” and a powerful piece from Danelle Morrow of the Mother Jones Leadership Program and Johnstown organizing committee. Also check out reflections from a PPF delegation to Brazil, and a profound piece  by Nick Morrisey about State Correctional Institution Fayette – among other great pieces of content including the first of a new series of reflections from PPF’s LGBTQ+ members!                                                             







Contact: Nijmie Dzurinko, Put People First! PA Campaign Team Coordinator (484) 619-2306
What: Dozens from across Pennsylvania travel hundreds of miles to attend the first ever public informational hearing on proposed rate increases for individual health plans held on Wednesday July 27th at the Keystone Building, 400 North Street, Harrisburg PA 17120

On Wednesday, July 27th, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department (PID) held the first ever public hearing on individual and small group healthcare plans. The hearing was prompted by the calls, letters, petition signatures stories, and tenacity of hundreds of everyday people and organizations across the state who over the course of 8 months demanded a public forum to air concerns about skyrocketing premiums, deductibles and co-pays.

In the morning, the PID and the assembled residents heard from Highmark, Aetna, Independence Blue Cross, Capital Blue Cross, UPMC Health Plan and Geisinger Health Plan, all of which are requesting double digit rate increases. The increased costs would impact nearly 500,000 people in PA who purchase insurance through the marketplace. To her credit, Commissioner Teresa Miller and her team asked some pointed questions such as why Highmark hasn’t used a $3.7 billion surplus to offset rate increases for customers. Companies justified their requests by citing high prescription drug costs, market uncertainties and unexpectedly large numbers of sick people.

By 1 pm, most insurance company executives had left and the room was packed with four dozen residents from across Pennsylvania, three quarters of whom wore red t-shirts with the distinctive Healthcare is a Human Right logo of Put People First! PA (PPF-PA), the group that agitated to make the hearing happen for over eight months. Many traveled over 200 miles to say “NO” to companies’ double digit rate hikes that are forcing families to choose between paying for healthcare and paying for rent, utilities and food.

“We cannot balance the costs of healthcare on the backs of people who can’t afford it,” stated Nijmie Dzurinko, PPF-PA member from Philadelphia. “Healthcare is like air and water – we don’t consume it, we need it,” remarked Kim Altland, PPF-PA member from York.

For three hours community members delivered over 25 heart wrenching personal testimonies detailing the challenges they face trying to get care under the current healthcare system. Stories of physical and mental healthcare struggles exacerbated by the stress of premiums that cost more than rent, a complete lack of access to dental care, and forgoing medications and therapies due to costs, among others.

Healthcare providers and navigators also testified. “Insurance companies continue to shift these costs onto people every year,” said Jacob Hope, a PPF-PA member and enrollment assister. “These actions have real consequences. Any further increase in costs will push people to worse plans or out of the marketplace completely.” A number of speakers questioned whether insurance corporations produce anything of real value.

Put People First! PA thanks the PID for its commitment to greater public participation in the rate review process and will continue to assert that healthcare is a human right, Pennsylvanians cannot afford rising premiums and they demand that the insurance department reject premium increases and put people first.









Two IBX Customers Deliver Letter Seeking Resolution To Predatory Billing Cases


Sheila Quintana, 610-732-0116,

What: Patients and medical students take action to hold Independence Blue Cross accountable.
Who: Put People First! Pennsylvania and Students for a National Health Program
When: Monday, July 25th, 2016 at 12:00 pm
Where: Independence Blue Cross/Blue Shield, 1901 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

On Monday, patients and medical students will take action to hold Independence Blue Cross/Blue Shield (IBX) accountable for predatory insurance practices in the midst of a healthcare crisis, where everyday people are struggling to afford basic care. Pennsylvania residents will share their healthcare stories, and people directly impacted by IBX negligence and misconduct will deliver a letter seeking resolution to their cases. They will bring visibility to their long-standing struggle with the insurance company.

Put People First! PA member, Tammy Murphy, was directly impacted by IBX’s predatory policies and poor customer service. After years of struggle, which included a pregnancy without adequate care, Tammy was left with thousands of dollars of debt, mistakenly assigned to her when IBX opened multiple accounts under her name. “The stress on our family is really extreme. We have lived in fear without adequate coverage for our family, under constant threat of collection agencies.”

In 2016, IBX asked the Pennsylvania Insurance Department to raise the price of insurance premiums by $30 or more for every single Keystone Plan in Philadelphia. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in 2014 more than 1.5 million people in Pennsylvania reported that, in the past year, they needed to see a doctor but couldn’t because of the cost (taken from the state’s health statistics reporting tool, here). Despite this and having opposed the Affordable Care Act when it was first proposed, IBX CEO Daniel Hilferty is a member of the host committee for the Democratic National Convention.

Last month, Put People First PA! won an 8-month campaign with the Pennsylvania State Insurance Department to secure a Public Hearing on skyrocketing premium prices in 2017, like those of IBX. This hearing will be in two days, on July 27th at 9:30 AM in Harrisburg Public Utilities Commission Hearing Room #1, Keystone Building, 400 North Street, and will be the first opportunity Pennsylvania residents have had since the passage of the Affordable Care Act to speak on the record about the impacts of a healthcare and insurance crisis that affects every Pennsylvanian, across all lines of division like race, age, politics, and geography.

thanks to Queer Philly Brunch for this healthcare dreams collage!

Summer is Pride season for queer and trans communities around the world. This year, even as we celebrate ourselves, we continue to feel the aftershocks of the attacks on Latinx Night at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. We also feel the continuing impact of transphobic and homophobic violence from individuals and institutions across the world — violence that particularly effects poor and working queer and trans folks and queer and trans folks of color.

It is clearer than ever that the (many!) queer and trans folks of Put People First have powerful voices to lift up and hear.

What does it mean to be a person who is part of an LGBTQIA+ community, engaged in the work of PPF? How do our healthcare needs intersect with our identities? How are our struggles to meet our basic needs impacted by our experiences as queer and/or trans people?

The Media and Communications team wants to hear your responses to any or all of those questions. We want your prose, your poetry, your songs, your art, to share on the blog, the newsletter or social media. We, the queer and trans people of Put People First! PA, are here, and our stories matter.

If you’re interested in writing or contributing something, please contact Maddie on the Media and Communications team (madeline dot taterka at gmail dot com) by August 1! She can help with editing drafts, brainstorming ideas, or offering general feedback.