Press Release: Human Rights Town Hall in Kingsessing, Philadelphia

Contact: Sheila Quintana
Who: Southwest Philadelphia Organizing Committee of Put People First! PA
When: Thursday, November 12th, 6pm
Where: Kingsessing Recreation Center, 49th and Kingsessing Ave, Philadelphia, PA


In response to the ongoing healthcare crisis faced by the Kingsessing community in Southwest Philadelphia, as well as other communities across the city, state, and country, the Southwest Philadelphia Organizing Committee of Put People First! PA held a Human Rights Town Hall at the Kingsessing Recreation Center, a hub of community activism. Twenty-five community members joined together calling for a real say in the healthcare system, and fairness, transparency and accountability when it comes to accessing care and rising healthcare costs.

Residents shared powerful stories and discussed ways to shift the balance of power toward our communities in building a system in which healthcare is a human right.

Ruth Scott of Southwest Philly shared her story about seeking treatment for epilepsy. “Does she have coverage?” she remembers hearing providers ask while she was having a seizure. “I was treated like a product, I wanted to cry,” she said. Despite having insurance coverage, Scott recounted her experience being forced to choose between buying essential medicines and food.

Scott’s experience was echoed in responses to the first phase of a statewide health-care survey conducted by Put People First! PA. “More than one in three people surveyed in Southwest Philadelphia said that in the last 12 months alone, the cost of medical care forced them to skip paying for basic things like electric bills and groceries,” remarked Southeast PA organizer Sheila Quintana.

According to the most recent Community Health Assessment, the Kingsessing community has a poverty rate of 37% and the life expectancy of residents is a full 6 years less than people living in Center City.

“When you’re born, it should be a human right that you should have healthcare,” Gloria Turner of Southwest Philadelphia said at the town hall. “It shouldn’t be about money; all of us should be cared for in the same way.”

But even for the insured, the cost of care is going up. Health insurance premium increases in Pennsylvania on ACA Marketplace plans have been approved to take effect on January 1, 2016 up to 26.7%. Plans approved for increases of over 20% will impact over 150,000 people across the state. This means that over 1/3 of people currently enrolled in ACA plans will either be paying more or forced to navigate the marketplace to pick plans with lower prices which usually means higher deductibles and worse coverage.

“There is no public input into these decisions yet they impact so many people. Whether you have an employer plan, an ACA plan, Medicare, Medicaid or even the VA, health-care costs are going up for everyone,” remarked Robert Fields, Southwest Philadelphia Organizing Committee member.

Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller has stated that she is open to doing a public hearing next year but that no hearing will happen this year.

Put People First! PA is a statewide, grassroots organization that builds the leadership, power and unity of everyday people across lines of difference in our state.

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