Janice Churchill sat at the front of the bus by 7:30 Thursday morning. She was joining 2,000 other people from across the state to fight for quality, affordable health care for everyone. She was ready with snacks, comfortable shoes – and stories of how lacking affordable health care affects her and the people she supports every day.
Janice is a home care attendant who has worked for many years supporting seniors and people with disabilities in their homes. Her clear eyes, hard work, and strong spirit mean that some of the most vulnerable Philadelphians can keep their independence, and live with dignity and respect in their homes. But Janice and home care attendants like her don’t get the full health care benefits they need – even though they are front line caregivers supporting seniors and people with disabilities.
“I got on this bus today to let Washington know about the health care reform we all need – the health care reform that we are going to fight for,” said Janice. “Where I work, we don’t get full health care benefits. We get partial health care benefits. Today I’m fighting to get those full benefits.”
Janice and many other workers told their stories on the way down to DC where they would join thousands of people in a huge rally for comprehensive health care reform that includes a strong, public health insurance option. For Janice, it’s about families already in financial crisis not being able to afford even the most basic care.
“When people don’t get those full benefits, we have to pull a lot of money out of our pockets,” she continued. “Families have to put up thousands of dollars. Just to go to the emergency room alone – to even be seen – is over $250.”
Janice and the others on her bus arrived at a huge park on Capitol Hill to see almost 10,000 other workers and families united for affordable health care for all, improved care for the chronically ill, shared responsibility for health care between individuals, businesses, and the government, and a public health care option this year. After the rally, she joined other union members at a Pennsylvania-focused town hall where we urged our political leaders to stand up for health care reform now.
“This is ridiculous. We all need health care. We need to look at the facts of what’s going on with the health care system,” said Janice. “Today I’m going to tell them that they need their benefits. They are taking our rights and throwing them out the window.”
At the town hall, Pennsylvanians from all walks of life filled the hall to speak to our members of Congress and leaders who can bring our nation real health care reform. We were touched by Georgeanne Koehler, and her story about how she lost her brother because he couldn’t afford the cardiac care he needed without health insurance.
The end of the day put us face to face with one of the key decision-makers in our nations’ drive for quality, affordable, health care – Senator Arlen Specter. We made sure he knew that Pennsylvanians would hold him accountable to making health care reform happen this year. The cost of doing nothing is just too great.
“There are 47 million uninsured workers – uninsured people – that don’t have full benefits,” continued Janice. “We’re going down to fight for these benefits. We’re fighting, we’re fighting. Lord, help us all.”