by Irish, Pittsburgh

There is a lot of insecurity in my family around healthcare. Our income has been unstable, and often shrinking, since 2013 when Lyme disease and cancer stopped my partner and me, respectively, from working. The ACA made it possible for us to have access to health insurance, but healthcare costs are our biggest expense and growing every year. So it has been with mixed feelings and an eye toward something better that I have participated in actions to protect the ACA.

Since January, myself and other members of the Pittsburgh HRC (Human Rights Committee) have attended rallies, called and written letters to our federal representatives, gone to town halls, told our stories to the press, and even gone to Washington, DC and been arrested. At every step we think not just about all that we might lose if the ACA is repealed, but also about how we can use this moment to advance PPF’s Healthcare is a Human Right campaign.

When we speak at rallies or to the press, we share our personal stories, then attack insurance companies and profit-driven care and give our vision for a system that puts people first. One PGH member made big, beautiful PPF signs so even just a few of us can make a big splash at any action. We yell the loudest and help lead chants that amplify our message – “Medicaid not millionaires” instead of “ACA here to stay.” We always bring a clip- board with a PPF sign-up sheet.

In March we hosted a action training led by national organizers to protect the ACA where we learned about bird-dogging, a tactic to force politicians to take a stance on an issue. That same week we used our new skills to bird-dog our state representatives for a hearing on universal healthcare. We continue to invite those who came to the training to PPF events and one is even on the HRC now.

When I participated in civil disobedience in the Senate office buildings in DC, I got to spend several hours with activists from across PA. I told them about all our exciting work in PPF and I bet I will see them again.

I am proud of the work we have done to protect the gains made by the ACA. I’m even more proud of how we’ve taken a fight for a mediocre law and turned it into opportunity after opportunity for PPF’s Healthcare is a Human Right campaign. It’s easy to see the impact of our participation and leadership, both in how the healthcare debate is framed, and literally in the faces of our membership. Whatever does or doesn’t happen with the ACA this year, there is no question that PPF is better off for having participated in the fight!

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