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.

Small moments of connection are our victories

the following is an anonymous member reflection

Having a rough day at work and wanted to share a small victory I had thanks to — and a moment that made it clear to me once again, why we need universal health care and so much more…

**The only trauma talked about below is related to the awfulness of a system that puts profit over people, I don’t talk about intimate partner abuse explicitly.**

I work as a domestic violence counselor in a hospital, so I go to work, and am never quite sure what I’m walking into that day (like many of you also face). Today I was asked to go speak with a woman who had just given birth a couple days ago, and who the nurses believed was suffering from postpartum depression as a result of domestic violence. I went to talk to her using a phone interpreter since the woman was Haitian and spoke French Creole. Soon after talking to her, it became clear that she was not experiencing domestic violence, and was definitely not suffering from mental illness. Even though I’m supposed to stop talking to someone after I realize they aren’t experiencing domestic violence, I stayed and listened because my human rights/health justice antennae were going off. She was definitely in a stressful situation, which was only being made worse by the hospital. She is uninsured, but before going to the hospital to give birth to her child she was told that she would definitely not be charged anything, that she would not see a bill. But people at the hospital kept giving her conflicting information and she was given a bill without any explanation of what financial assistance was available to her. I explained Emergency Medicaid to her, and that it was likely she would qualify for that, and I told her she may need to ask and demand to get an application. I also told her that although people at the hospital keep treating her as though she is a bad mother and “crazy,” she is reacting completely normally to the situation she is in. I told her over and over that she wasn’t crazy, and by the end of the conversation we were able to laugh together at the absurdity of the way people were treating her, and basically the absurdity of the US health system. She told me she felt much better, and was surprised that someone who was much younger than everyone else she had spoken with that day was able to provide her with some relief. It made me angry/sad that there are people who are deeply affected by this messed up health system, and then the health system turns around and blames them for it by diagnosing them with a “mental illness” to dismiss the reality of how traumatizing the system itself can be.

So…I was channeling my PPF community so hard in that room today. Thank you all. I don’t know what I would have done without you. I was able to help someone feel a little less crazed in this absurdity of a system thanks to you all.

Love you all <3

Five Key Things to Know about the Republican Healthcare Plan

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.

PPF Represents at Students for a National Healthcare Program #TrickNotTreat Action

feature image via SNaHP and Amanda Malik

Check out Put People First campaign team member and medical student Karim Sariahmed speaking with other medical students, PPF members and local activists at Students for a National Healthcare Program’s #TrickNotTreat action! Demonstrators gathered at Philadelphia’s City Hall and marched to Independence Blue Cross Headquarters.

“The question of class and worker status is a deeper one than we can deal with in a single article or action, but it’s one that physicians in particular need to grapple with if they value social justice.” – Karim Sariahmed

Read more reflection from Karim at the SNaHP blog.