Downtown rally part of state movement to expand Medicaid

Carmela Green is employed as a personal care worker but has no health care insurance.

She is just one of among many of the uninsured and others statewide who are calling for Medicaid expansion.

Green, 50, of Williamsport, turned out for a rally at Williamsport’s city hall urging Gov. Tom Corbett and the state Legislature to bring some $43 billion in funding to help the uninsured.

“It’s something worth fighting for,” said Green, a married mother and grandmother.

Green and her husband, Jerome, she noted, are not getting any younger and increasingly are going to need some type of health insurance.

“There are 700,000 lives on the line,” said Athena Ford, advocacy director, Pennsylvania Health Access Network.

That’s the number of people, Ford said, who could benefit from the federal dollars for Medicaid. Other states have opted to approve the funding, but Pennsylvania still has not acted on it. As part of the rally, people could have their photos taken.

The photos, in turn, will be displayed regionally as a part of a state-wide action program, “Lives on the Line.” The faces of rally participants held in Williamsport and elsewhere will appear on the Capitol steps in Harrisburg June 12 in hopes of bringing attention of those “lives on the line” to Corbett and lawmakers.

Ford, for one, feels the “Lives on the Line” plan of action is bringing more attention to the need for Medicaid expansion.

“We are seeing a lot of support in Harrisburg on both sides of the aisle,” she said.

Medicaid expansion, she said, can help cut costs for hospitals and even create jobs.

Sandra Jones, 57, of Williamsport, went many years without insurance before recently becoming eligible for Medicare.

A former Berks County maintenance manager, she suffers from polio syndrome and has had six hip replacements.

“I want to tell Gov. Corbett that expanding Medicaid is needed,” said Jones, who gets around in a wheelchair.

Rev. Harry Hopper, of Williamsport, said too many people in America are not living the American dream espoused by the nation’s forefathers.

“Money has become the measure of all things,” he said, noting that 85 percent of the nation’s wealth is controlled by the top 20 percent of the country’s wage earners.

Everyone, he said, deserves health care.

It is their right,” he added.

Ford said the majority of the uninsured are those with jobs that simply don’t include health care coverage.

“We know that the money is available to Pennsylvania,” she said. “If we accept the $43 billion we can bring health care to 700,000 Pennsylvania people.”