Barbara White, Pittsburgh HRC, Campaign Team
On April 2d, 2020, Put People First! PA hosted our first Virtual Lobby Day. We had planned to join an in-person lobby day in Harrisburg on March 17th with the Oral Health Coalition, but it was canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Undaunted, we contacted people who had signed up to join us that day to tell their stories about why we need full dental services for adults on Medicaid.
In this Covid-19 crisis, with dental offices closed and even routine care unavailable, it means that small dental problems can become big problems and lead to needs that are not covered. Four of our members spoke about how poor dental care negatively affects total health, including heart disease and diabetes, 2 of the conditions that leave us at risk for Covid-19. They also spoke about how lack of sufficient dental care makes it difficult to smile, to get respect and employment, even when the person does everything they can to take care of their teeth. We had about 40 members from across the state on the call, including Pittsburgh, the Mon Valley, Westmoreland County, Altoona, Harrisburg, York County, Lancaster, Philly, and Northeastern PA.
We invited legislators who support our policy demands and thanked them for their support of:
- Healthcare as a Human Right
- A Public Healthcare Advocate to be our voice in Harrisburg
- Reinstatement of the full Medicaid adult dental benefit
- No work requirements or hurdles in the Medicaid application process
The legislators who attended were affected by our stories and have vowed to work on the issues. Rep. Sara Innamorato attended. She is co-sponsor of HR799 to engage in research on the effects of losing the adult dental benefit in 2011. We were also joined by Rep. Austin Davis, Sen. Sharif Street, and staff from Rep. Matthew Bradford and Sen. Art Haywood.
But the larger issues of the day – people losing jobs, losing health insurance, losing their lives due to Covid-19 – were central to our discussion, too, since we lobby for the needs of working-class people in this crisis. We call for the state of PA to expand Medicaid, since we support universal access to healthcare, regardless of ability to pay. We call for reopening closed hospitals to take care of sick people; adequate Covid-19 testing; and Personal Protective Equipment for frontline workers.