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.
A healthcare forum, hosted by the York O.C. of Put People First – PA in partnership with the York NAACP and Centro Hispano Jose Hernandez of York, was held on September 27, 2016 at the Crispus Attucks Community Center. Nearly 40 residents of York County across the spectrums of age, race, ability, gender, orientation and socioeconomic status gathered to share stories about everything from being “talked down to” in more ways than one as a patient in a wheelchair to difficulties with translation in the emergency room. Here are some reflections and takeaways – with an emphasis on next steps – from some of the PPF members who participated in the forum. One consistent theme of the night was preventive treatment. Not all provider offices are fully set up to actually prevent illnesses from becoming chronic or life threatening. And not only that, I hear many folks share how devalued they feel as a patient. That providers are not fully listening to actual need of patients. They just jump straight to the conclusions and treatments. What we fail to understand as healthcare professionals is that it really doesn’t matter what “we” think when being in front of a patient. But it’s all about hearing what the patient has to say. So many patients head to the ER where their need is heard and met quickly. Affordability was also a key theme. Folks cannot simply afford the treatment these days. They cant afford prescriptions to help prevent illnesses. Language barrier was another. There isn’t enough to bilingual staff to accommodate Hispanic people. This causes a mistrust with the Hispanic community because they don’t feel understood. Also, the paperwork that providers ask patients to fill out are overwhelming. Many patients can’t understand how to fill them out. Overall, there is a lack of communication regarding the medical services that are provided in our community. Continuity and communication are big issues.
– Shane Moore
Exorbitant drug costs, insurance companies changing formulas at whim, and the need for time and skill for advocacy to battle with gatekeepers all seem to be shared concerns. People seemed to appreciate the chance to voice their grievances. I look forward to the opportunity to give greater emphasis to the call for universal health care and single payer solutions. That message must be spoken and heard. So few people even consider it as a possibility!
I could see us looking for more opportunities to hear health care concerns, e.g. in combination with the PPF surveys, at malls, at market, and at community events. We could work more with the Latino community and providers to help them work towards possible solutions in terms of patient comfort. We could also do some training for volunteer advocates to take on the insurance gatekeepers on a case-by-case basis.
In T.R. Reid’s book The Healing of America it is stated repeatedly that we need to “lay bare the moral question at the heart of our troubled system, dissecting the misleading rhetoric surrounding the health care debate”. I believe we try to do that. I think we must do more to create the political will for universal healthcare. We really must engage everyone in the conversation that it is not only possible, but morally imperative AND our right to demand universal access to adequate care.
– Val Kater