Paul Ryan and the House Republicans finally put out their health care plan, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), though the plan is in fact less about health care than it is about redistributing wealth. The plan would deliver half a trillion dollars in tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy by taking health care access away from poor, working class, and middle class people. It would do nothing to address the crisis of unaffordable health care that imposes impossible costs and denies millions of people access to care.
Read more analysis from Ben Palmquist of the Put People First Campaign Team and the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative here.
On January 26th while the Republican leadership was in Philadelphia, PPF joined thousands in the streets and demanded health care. Put People First leader and fundraising team member Farrah Samuels gave a speech. Watch it here and read the transcript below!
We believe that health care is a basic human right; not a privilege
We’re fighting for all of you as a statewide organization to promote health and dignity for everybody — not just a few.
So I want to tell you my story because I believe in the power of stories like most of you. I just beat cancer — stage four. I had two forms of cancer. I had surgery the day before the election and when I woke up, Dump was in the office. I cried tears of sadness instead of joy because dump was in the office and I stood to lose everything that I had fought for.
On April Fools Day 2015, I went to the doctor. He gave me a cruel joke: He said, “You got two forms of stage-four sarcoma; you’ve got three months to live.” I said, “Doc nah those must be some alternative facts; you gas lighting me right?”
Then I began to fight.
Before that, my family and I were already enduring hardships: death of family members who couldn’t afford insurance because they had pre-existing conditions, foreclosure, lack of jobs, a stint of homelessness in which we spent a month in a tent in Amish country. I’d had a big job! I had a bigly huge salary! I went from that to a salary of $5000 a year as an adjunct professor with a master’s degree. For three people to live off of, that’s not enough to survive — it’s not enough for anything. Then you’ve got that five month waiting people for those of us who are disabled. Even though they called me a “compassionate allowance” That basically means “we think you’re about to die, and we don’t care.” It’s like the people who make the disability decisions said, “We’re going to wait. We’re going to see if you get cured or you die, because we don’t want to pay you right now, even though you’ve been paying into this system since you were 14.”
So instead of my energy being focused on my fight, I had to beg for money everyday on GoFundMe. Who’s done that before? Too many families. Without the vital lifesavers of Medicaid — which threw me a life raft when I didn’t have shit — SSPI, the ACA/Obamacare, and the friends and family and people like you who gave me a dollar here and there so I could survive those six months.
My story’s still being written, and fortunately I’m here to tell it. For all the sarcoma and cancer patients who didn’t make it because they didn’t have what I have. (Thank you President Obama.) And I’m in remission today because I had Obamacare, because I had surgery the day before the election. And don’t think that timing does not matter. I’m grateful because the reality that it is that 43,000 people a year, could die from mass genocide and science that is guided by “alternative facts.”
The pillars of our safety net that saved my life and thousands and millions of others are being dismantled by officials who receive premium healthcare, sustainable salaries, pensions. They spit and laugh at us who want the same. We deserve the same. Financial ruin for families like us is brutal. my survival so far cost me $200,000, but luckily, because of ACA I’m paying a tiny piece of it. I’d be dead trying to pay $200k on a $5k salary. everyone deserves the right to live with a decent quality of life and the right to healthcare with dignity! So what’s the prie of a life? dont think that this sis any coincidence that the sun is shining right now, because it’s been raining for a week. Our city might be tainted right now, but it’s still the city of brotherly love. We need y’all to stand up right now and Put People First!
I’m almost done y’all
I was watching this movie; they said to exist alone is to survive unfair choices. So do I pay for my health insurance as a chronically ill person, or do I put food on my table to feed my family? It’s a choice none of us should have to make but too many do. I want to remind those legislators at the Loews that no one is immune and there is no backseat for crappy life circumstances. Illness does not discriminate. In the last month, our own PFFPA family lost two of its Johnstown members, across the state, because they didn’t have quality health care. My friends, we speak your name, Bella Oliveras and Tiffany Walker, and we will continue to fight and to resist in your honor. Our Put People First aim is this this year — y’all that know football, it’s football season — go on offense, go on defense, build your healthcare rights communities; look at the power of this group of people; hold your leaders accountable. Be creative, take action. Shout out to those last night who were dancing; I was with you in spirit.
Remember healthcare is a right not a privilege. And as Kendrick Lamar said, We gon’ be alright. But only if we stand together in solidarity and resistance of inhumane governance. Independent of political party or bipartisanship. So I’m inviting you to join me and PPFPA because we and you are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
And I want to say that with the current powers and the leaderSHIT that is, a revolution just may not be televised. So we got to make it live, and we got to make it alive. Will you fight for me? I will fight for all of you. Thank you.
Put People First PA joined millions of people across the United States and world between January 14-20 demonstrating around Martin Luther King Jr. Day and at actions demanding positive change and policy for our communities and families.
LANCASTER In Lancaster, PPF representing the Poor People’s Campaign took part as a featured speaker/organization in the #LancasterStandsUp community meeting at the Southern Market Center. More than 350 people gathered, representing concerned individuals or socially progressive organizations. People shared healthcare stories and personal testimonies, organizer tales from the front and report-backs from local work, and took part in small group discussions asking “What are Lancaster County values?” Read more at the Lancaster Online.
PITTSBURGH Fifteen people came out for a community meeting held by PPF’s Pittsburgh Organizing Committee, where they began to build our local strategy to push back against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and push for solutions to the healthcare crisis on the state level. They also celebrated MLK Weekend by learning about Dr. King’s work to build a “new and unsettling force” of poor and dispossessed people to change our society, and they joined the call for a New Poor People’s Campaign. The meeting closed with stories and poetry from Gary Evans and Randa Shannon, two members who participated in the Black Freedom Movement in the ’60s and ’70s.
NEW YORK Eleven members of the Healthcare is a Human Right Collaborative from Pennsylvania, Maine, New York and Vermont attended the Single Payer Strategy Conference, and presented the workshop “Building a Winning Movement: Moving from Tactical Coalitions to Strategic Partnerships.” The packed workshop received rave reviews and outlined the ideas and definitions that guide our work in an interactive way.
PHILLY In Philadelphia, PPF joined PASNAP, other unions, community groups, and elected officials to call for lawmakers to protect Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). PPF was were featured on a video by Philly We Rise and the Media Mobilizing Project:
January 16, Martin Luther King Jr. Day
PHILLY PPFers in Philly joined with thousands of others at the POWER MLK DARE March in solidarity with the Reclaim MLK actions across the country, recognizing King’s analysis and calls to action around racism and poverty.
YORK The York OC hosted a Martin Luther King celebration issuing the call for a new Poor People’s Campaign at Gusa Fashion House and Gallery. More then 40 people gathered with food and traditional African crafts for children. A dozen community leaders read the words of Dr. King and share poetry, songs, and personal reflections and the learn about and discuss the new Poor People’s Campaign.
Listen to South Central PA organizer Carla Christopher read a poem about Dr. King’s legacy:
STATEWIDE PPF members, new and old, across the state, had a conference call to discuss our 2017 campaign and what’s currently happening in Congress with regards to health care and the ACA.
PHILLY On the day of the presidential inauguration, Put People First took part in the People’s Inauguration in Philly, an event held by the New Sanctuary Movement. Along with speakers from many other community organizations, PPF’s Richard Mosley spoke about health care access in and outside of the prison system and solidarity with immigrants. Then all in attendance took an oath together to protect and fight for each other in the face of all types of systemic oppression.
Ben Palmquist, member of the Put People First! PA Campaign Team and Campaign Manager for the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, wrote the following guide to help us understand the upcoming threats, challenges, and opportunities with healthcare in the U.S.
Put People First is committed to helping our communities meet their needs, engaging people across the state in a strategic response to these attacks and creating solutions to ensure the health and well being of all people in Pennsylvania.
What to Expect from the Coming Republican Attacks on Health Care
Hard-right Republicans have taken over all branches of government, and since the election President-Elect Donald Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have all said that health care will be a major target in January.
The agenda the party is rallying around is truly unprecedented. Never before in history have ideological extremists held such sweeping control of government and had the power to repeal laws, dismantle and privatize public programs, and revoke fundamental civil and human rights. On the campaign trail, Trump was not fully in alignment with Ryan, so it is uncertain just what we should expect, but there is every reason to expect a truly catastrophic defunding and privatization of Medicaid that could force 30 million people out of the program, a dismantling of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that could take insurance away from another 22 million people, and a privatization of Medicare that would drastically limit health care access for seniors. The gravity of this would be enormous: taking comprehensive health care access away from people would literally kill tens of thousands of people every year.
While what Republicans will do exactly is unclear, they have released nine health care plans over the last four years. The following is a list of key conclusions that are emerging about the direction things are likely headed, with links to further reading on each topic.