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Press – Put People First! PA

We’re telling our own stories!

Read some of the recent press coverage of our work

An Almost Trump Voter: How Education and My Activism Changed My Husband’s Opinion (Truthout)
In June 2016, a group of us from across Pennsylvania organized a candlelight vigil for my mother, who had passed away in October 2015, from lung cancer. Though she lost this battle, it was the inadequate treatment that she received that took her so quickly. We stood publicly in front of her provider’s office demanding an apology, and with support from people all over the state, we made our voice heard. I, a poor white woman from Johnstown, stood arm in arm with my friend and fellow member from Philadelphia, a poor Black Muslim woman from Philadelphia wearing hijab.


Danelle and Bahjah at the vigil for Danelle’s mother.

Kevin was in attendance, and although he has views that are different than many of ours, he is still very supportive of the work I do and understands the reason I fight. Mourning in community is essential for healing, and I feel many people including Kevin were healed at this gathering. New doors opened, bringing new opportunities for organizing and strengthening relationships. This experience was one that ultimately made it more difficult — and later, impossible — for Kevin to continue supporting Trump.

Single Payer Is on the National Agenda—And It’s Thanks to People’s Movements (In These Times)

PPF Members at a protest in Philadelphia against Independence Blue Cross.

There has long been an unstated political consensus between the Republican and Democratic Parties that it is okay to deny millions of people healthcare and okay for some people to have quality care while others have substandard care. Whether these inequities are justified as a matter of personal responsibility, or an unfortunate reality of the world, both parties have always treated healthcare as a commodity rather than as a human right. PPF-PA is working to crack that consensus and cleave it wide open.

“The insurance industry’s profit motives are incompatible with our human right to healthcare,” explains Vespera Barrow, a PPF-PA member from Pittsburgh. “You can’t reform and advocate away those kinds of deep structural problems. We need to stop focusing on insurance coverage and start focusing on human beings. This is about people’s lives. This is about our health, our dignity and our survival.”

Single-payer health care is gaining steam. These are the people who made it possible. (ThinkProgress)
Single-payer activists have had a complicated relationship with the Affordable Care Act. During the early years of the Obama administration, as the fight over the ACA took hold of Washington, many activists were sharply critical of the legislation — saying it didn’t go far enough to accomplish their goals. “We were saying we see this as a false solution,” Brunner of Vermont Workers Center said. “Ultimately, it’s a structure where we’re taking public money to subsidize the insurance companies… We want it to be a public good.”

The activists who spoke to ThinkProgress said they were also concerned about some specific elements of the ACA, such as the lack of ability to negotiate with drug companies, the fact that undocumented immigrants were left out of the system, and the lack of meaningful cost controls.

“Part of what we’ve done here in Pennsylvania is to absolutely get involved in the fight to defend against the repeal of the ACA without a replacement that’s better,” Nijmie Dzurinko, the co-founder of Put People First PA, said. “We’re not saying ‘Yeah, OK, just repeal it.’ We’re saying you have to replace it with something better and the only place to really go is universal health care.”

Interviews for Resistance: Disrupting the System by Demanding Healthcare as a Human Right (In These Times)
In Put People First, we talk about leadership across difference. We are not trying to erase people’s differences. We actually need leaders who really, deeply understand the sources of where exploitation comes from, as well as the results and the outcomes on groups of people. Then, also, are very committed to and skilled at uniting people anyway. Which is really the crux. How do we unite people anyway, even despite all that has happened?

Mother Jones Leadership Program participants and mentors, pictured in 2017.

You need education and a really, really clear program. Then, you need activities that people are doing together. In our case, that is the Healthcare is a Human Right campaign. We are working on something, we are invested in it, we are moving together, we are fighting for each other. The relationships have to be there, the education has to be there, and the activity has to be there. It has taken a while, sometimes, for folks to stop going to a very reactive place. It is a habit to think of urban people in a particular way and rural people in a particular way. But people have been able to unlearn those habits.

Doctors, residents plead for better insurance (The Daily Item – Sunbury)
Standing at the podium, Karim Sariahmed, of Danville, a member of Put People First, put an emotional stamp on the evening by relating a story about his father’s illness and the fiasco of dealing with insurance companies while ill.

“It’s one thing to come here and talk about the Department of Insurance and what they do,” he said, “but there is another side to the issue. Who makes the decisions about rate increases? Who are they? And do they understand this is an issue an issue about people.”

Julia testifies at a health insurance Town Hall in Oakdale, PA.

Potential Obamacare premium hikes ‘unacceptable’ to some Pennsylvania consumers (TribLive – Pittsburgh)
To people who faced rate hikes averaging 33 percent last year and double-digit increases the year before, more increases are difficult to stomach.

“It is unacceptable to approve any increases this year,” Rose Lynd, 36, of Morningside told a Pennsylvania Insurance Department representative at a public meeting in Oakdale on Wednesday. Lynd’s wife, Julia Willis, 39, had to switch this year to a lower-quality plan with a high deductible and still pays $226 per month. Willis relies on the plan to pay for treatment for a debilitating case of Lyme disease.

Depending on Trump, PA insurers’ rate requests could rise from 9 percent to 36 percent (Lancaster Online)
Wanda Miller, a member of the citizen-advocacy group Put People First, said in an email Thursday that it’s asking for an expanded public input process before new rates are approved, with hearings in each rating area at a time when working people can attend.

“In this difficult political climate it’s more important than ever that the state creates avenues for greater participation and transparency over matters that directly impact our lives,” she wrote.