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.
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.
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
On November 3, dozens of Philadelphians demonstrated outside the corporate headquarters of Independence Blue Cross at the height of rush hour traffic in Center City to speak out against rising Affordable Care Act premium rates that are impacting residents across Pennsylvania. Members of grassroots organization Put People First! PA were joined by union allies from the SEIU Home Care Workers Union and Pennsylvania Federation BMW-ED. “Healthcare costs – they’re affecting everyone. This is what our brothers and sisters at [SEPTA Union] TWU Local 234 are fighting for,” said Robert Fields, of Southwest Philadelphia.
Looming above the crowd was a 12-foot puppet of Independence Blue Cross CEO Daniel Hilferty, who makes $4 million dollars a year. With this as the backdrop, members and friends of Put People First spoke to the impact that rising premium was having on their ability to pay for basic necessities.
“After 8 months of pressure by Put People First, the State Insurance Department held its first ever public hearing on rising premium costs [on ACA plans] in Harrisburg this July.” said Karim Sariahmed, a medical student at Temple University. “But despite a petition with over 500 signatures and testimony from dozens of PA residents, the Department gave Blue Cross an even bigger rate increase than they asked for! It’s clear to us that the PA Insurance Department is on the side of the big insurance companies, and not regular people who are struggling to afford care.”
Communities all across Pennsylvania are faced with an average increase of 32.5% for ACA individual plans. IBX asked for permission to increase their rates by 19.87%, and instead were approved for 27.97%, 40% more than they asked for. In a recent survey conducted by Put People First! PA, which included Pennsylvania residents from over 40 counties, more than 1 in 3 said that in the last 12 months healthcare costs forced them to skip paying for basics like electricity and groceries.