Put People First Turns Out for Health Care, Sanctuary Cities, #reclaimMLK and more!

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.

January 14

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.

The packed workshop received rave reviews.

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.

January 15

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:

January 18

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.

January 20

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.

Coming Up: January 26

Join Put People First in Philly to protest creating a new health care system that’s even worse at meeting our needs than it already is! Resistance in Philly Healthcare Action: PPF Contingent

York OC Hosts Healing Halloween

The York OC spent Halloween building community in West York at the Hallo-WE Together Festival. York PPF members stepped up to organize the festival after its usual sponsor backed out. They gathered donations and volunteers from throughout the community to create a safe and fun space for area children, including a “trunk-or-treat,” face painting, and performances from local artists. Approximately 400 people attended!

via John Pavancello of the York Dispatch

In October, members of the York OC organized to reject racism and unseat the mayor of West York.  The Hallow-WE Together festival was a chance to unite and celebrate the community people had come together to defend. South Central PA organizer Carla Christopher helped organize the event, and she spoke about the importance of PPF being involved in community events like this one.

“Raising our profile and turning Put People First into an South Central PA household name … we are making real progress,” she said. “Aside from West York residents, we had people come from several surrounding municipalities, and many people of color, because they wanted to support a specifically multiethnic, inclusive Halloween festival. I love the diversity considering West York is only 12% minority and known as a very white area. Apparently residents from all over the county came specifically because they wanted a safe, place that welcomed families that looked like them.”

via John Pavancello of the York Dispatch
via John Pavancello of the York Dispatch

Check out local coverage of the celebration:

West York comes together to heal Halloween

West York bands together to continue annual Halloween celebration

What are YOUR barriers to care? York OC hosts community healthcare forum

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

The forum was covered further in the York Dispatch.

500 join PPF’s request to the PA Insurance Department for public hearings

PA Residents Request Hearing Before Healthcare Premium Increases

Over 500 PA residents from 26 counties sign petition requesting the PA Insurance Department hold public hearings on the impact of premium increases



Nijmie Dzurinko (484) 619-2306


Who: Put People First! PA, a statewide membership organization of individuals and families united for health and dignity.

When: Wednesday, May 25

Where: PA Department of Insurance, Strawberry Square, Harrisburg


What: On Wednesday, May 25, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, headed by Commissioner Teresa Miller, will release preliminary information about 2017 rate increases requested by health insurance companies. This is the first step in a process that will continue through the summer ending in the final approval of new rates for 2017.


In 2016, approved increases of up to 26.7% impacted over 150,000 residents. For example, Geisinger Health Plan and Geisinger Quality Options requested hikes of 40.6% and 58.4%, respectively. Each was approved for a 20% increase. Amanda, a Philadelphia resident with a Keystone Health Plan policy has seen her premium more than double from $80/mo. to $212/mo. over the past two years.


Put People First! PA (PPF-PA), a membership organization of everyday people throughout the state, has talked to hundreds of individuals and families like her for whom rising costs are increasingly making affordable healthcare out of reach.


“We’re going to the PA Insurance Department today to share with Commissioner Miller and her staff the names and hometowns of 500 people who want the opportunity to speak publicly about how healthcare costs are impacting them before any new increases are approved,” Rich Burrill of York, PA, said.


“More people need to be aware of what’s going on. It’s not fair to receive a notice in the mail or your next bill stating that your premiums have gone up when you never got the chance to weigh in,” PPF-PA member Danelle Morrow of Johnstown, PA, remarked. “People are having to choose between paying for healthcare and paying for rent or buying food.”


“We’ve been speaking with the department since September 2015 about the need for a public hearing. We’ve held our own town hall, met with them in Harrisburg, shared dozens of stories and they’ve been very receptive. Now they have the opportunity to step up and increase participation, accountability and transparency with public hearings,” Nijmie Dzurinko, co-founder and member of PPF-PA, said.


Today, summaries of the increases requested by insurance corporations in PA are going up on this website: http://www.insurance.pa.gov/Consumers/HealthInsuranceFilings. The week of June 13, the full filings will be posted, which will launch a period where comments from the public can be submitted by email through July 29. Currently, a public hearing is not part of the process.


Over the past few months, the PA Insurance Department has held public hearings on balance billing — also known as “surprise” billing — and long-term care insurance.