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.

Dozens Protest ACA Insurance Rate Hikes at IBX Headquarters

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.

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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.

Media Advisory: Philadelphians to Protest ACA Insurance Rate Hikes

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MEDIA ADVISORY

For release October 25th, 2016

Philadelphians to Protest ACA Insurance Rate Hikes

Who: Put People First! PA, a statewide grassroots organization bringing everyday people together to fight for health and dignity. More at www.putpeoplefirstpa.org

When: Thursday, October 27th, 4:30pm POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER. New time: Thursday, November 3, 4:30pm

Where: Independence Blue Cross Corporate Headquarters – 1901 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19103

This Thursday, members of Put People First! PA and other Philadelphia residents will gather outside of Independence Blue Cross’ (IBX) headquarters to protest the massive rate hikes slated to hit people buying insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace in 2017. They will speak out about the effects of rising insurance and health care costs on them and their families.

While insurance company CEOs like IBX’s Daniel Hilferty continue to make millions of dollars, communities all across Pennsylvania are faced with an average increase of 32.5% for ACA individual plans and 7.1% for small group plans. IBX petitioned the Insurance Department to increase their rates by 19.87%, and instead were approved for 27.97%, 40% more than they asked for. Pennsylvanians are already being forced to choose between paying for healthcare and paying for other necessities. 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.

This protest continues a campaign led by Put People First! PA to make healthcare a human right in Pennsylvania. Earlier this year, the campaign successfully pressured the Insurance Department to hold its first ever public hearings on ACA rate increases. On Thursday, that effort to put the lives and experiences of regular people at the center of decisions about health care will continue.

For more information, contact Zachary Hershman at zachary.hershman@gmail.com

2017 Insurance Rates: Will they be a Trick or a Treat?

This month, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department will announce health insurance premium rates on individual and small group plans for 2017, just ahead of the open enrollment period that begins in November. In July, the Department held its first annual public informational hearing on proposed rate increases following eight months of pressure from Put People First! PA (PPF-PA) members who engaged hundreds of impacted people and organizations across the state. At the hearing, dozens expressed opposition to rate increases, with story after story about how insurance companies are bankrupting PA families. Testifiers were supported by advocacy groups, public health organizations, unions and state legislators.

Citing rising healthcare costs, their own profit margins and not enough young and healthy people signing up for plans, insurance companies seek to stem profit losses by hiking rates on people who need access to care, and putting pressure on government regulators to allow it – something we saw in public for the first time during the hearing in July. At last month’s PA Health Access Network (PHAN) Conference in Harrisburg, Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller foreshadowed the announcement of potentially large increases, lamenting that rates were kept ‘too low’ last year. But if increases of up to 26.7% are still considered too low to prop up big insurers, nearly a million enrolled in the Marketplace face a dastardly trick this fall.

In “Beyond Coverage, Putting People First In Pennsylvania’s Healthcare System”, a recent report based on a survey of people in 46 counties by PPF-PA, 82% of respondents indicated that last year’s premium increases affected their lives, while 37% indicated that the cost of medical care has forced them to skip paying for basic necessities like food and rent within the past 12 months.

As another round of increased insurance premiums impact family budgets, more Pennsylvanians  will be driven out of the marketplace, leading to a vicious cycle of more expensive yet narrower plans. Currently the individual penalty for not buying insurance of $695/yr., or 2.5% of personal income (whichever is higher), is well beyond what most people can afford.

July’s public hearing was a triumph for democracy in Pennsylvania. The Insurance Department responded to the organized power of people, and listened attentively to our struggles with out-of-control insurance costs. We called on the department to represent the interests of the people because proper regulation of insurance companies is necessary to protect our health and human rights. In our survey of PA residents, 9 out of 10 people agreed that the government needs to do more to protect Pennsylvanians’ health.

The people have already said loudly and clearly that insurance companies cannot be allowed to balance their books on our backs. There is no situation in which a company’s bottom line should come before the needs of a cancer patient or a pregnant person. Our lives are at stake – the health of people comes before the health of the bottom line. Put People First looks forward to the release of new insurance rates for 2017. It will be a pivotal moment to understand whether there is a place for democracy in our healthcare system, and if not, what must be done about it.