Category Archives: Health Care

Serving Meals in Delhi

From Street Demos to Solidarity Work

Pearl River     What do mass-based organizations and social movements do when their tactics of mass action, disruption, and street protests are impossible due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing?  Do collective actions simply devolve into solitary moans on social media?  No, never!  Mass-based organizations assemble the base into action in another way to serve their members.  Let’s call it solidary or support work, and for all of the companies and governments who think that the dissipation of direct action is a silver lining in the cloud of the coronavirus, here’s bad news for you:  It’s making us stronger!

In the United Kingdom in recent weeks, ACORN mobilized 3500 volunteers to support individuals stuck at home and without services, to support food banks, to pick up groceries and drug prescriptions, and you name it.  Add to that circulating a petition that gained thousands of signatures to stop evictions and demand rent relief for its members.  Throw in this special distribution which is getting props from media throughout the country:

Coronavirus: Latest Information for Renters by ACORN. For those concerned about their housing during the ongoing pandemic, ACORN has a section providing information.

Membership is soaring!

The work gets really direct for ACORN Delhi, where we and one of our affiliates, Janaphal, administer more than a dozen night shelters for migrant workers who were caught by the government shutdown order and police action without work, and therefore income, and of course food as well.  Suddenly, we are running seven kitchens in the centers and during the week went from serving 3000 meals a day to 7000 and still rising.  The government is supposed to reimburse us, but the government was supposed to provide food to these workers during the shutdown.  People come first, as long as we can get the food to cook.

The stories abound throughout the ACORN federation of organizations, but it’s solidarity work with a bite, as collective actions continue where essential workers continue to labor.  In France, our affiliate in Lyon, Uniti, coordinated a strike of security workers being forced to work without personal protection equipment (PPE), and won. In Louisiana, workers in MH/MR community homes run by the giant national service company, ResCare, were left without adequate protection or quarantine procedures once a resident contracted the virus.  Workers passed petitions and joined Local 100 United Labor Unions to demand more from ResCare, despite threats of retaliation. Membership is soaring!

This is happening everywhere.

In Hong Kong, as reported by the Washington Post, “Rather than continuing to plug mass demonstrations, anti-government activists have used the networks they built during months of organizing to import more than 100,000 medical masks and distribute them to people in need.”  In Chile, “they’re also moving to adapt. They’ve been callingcacerolazos — balcony-bound pot-and-pan-banging protests traditional in Latin America — loud enough to drown out music and conversation inside homes. An artist’s collective, Intermediate Depression, published an illustrated “manual for protesting from home” on Instagram, encouraging Chileans to deck their balconies with protest signs, “share [their] favorite songs with [their] neighborhood” and engage in cyberactivism.”

Trust me on this.  In crisis we double down.  People learn what the slogan, “The People United Shall Never Be Defeated,” means in daily life, not just on the streets.

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Paying for Coronavirus and Medical Debt

Pearl River     Ten percent of Americans have absolutely, flat-to-the-bone, no health insurance.  Many others have Trump-plan insurance with high deductibles, covering nothing much at all, but maybe catastrophes up to certain lifetime payment levels.  Many of these same people are exactly the people who have to work, rain or shine, not because they are delivering the mail, although those folks are on the job as well, but because they are the underpaid infrastructure of the service economy from health care to food service to almost anything you can name.

Yesterday, one of the consumers at ResCare, a large national company where we represent workers in Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans in their community home operations, tested positive for coronavirus.  He’s still in the home, although with others.  Three of our workers are exposed.  There is no personal protective gear other than gloves, and in having forced the company to share their policies, not much of a plan for the consumers or workforce on any deep and serious level.  The minimal health policy the company offers that complies with the Affordable Care Act takes the fully allowable 9% of wages and then requires a deductible of over $4000, which was not capped by Obamacare.  Out of some 250 workers, less than five, and I’m being liberal here, actually participate, yet all of them are barred from the subsidies and supports available on the ACA marketplace, because their company offers something that is called health insurance and in compliance.  We’re on this like white-on-rice, but if any of our workers get the virus, they could be in big trouble.

Testing is free, reportedly, and the stimulus package forces insurers and employers to cover the tests.  Of course, if you hit the doc and don’t have the virus, that’s good news with a but…since you could still owe for the visit and a copay.  If you have it, the treatment will cost you.  The Wall Street Journal estimates low end $1300 out-of-pocket, but with major complications more than $20,000.  You could also have surprise bills of course, because despite bipartisan agreement, the lobbyists managed to sidetrack Congress this year on that problem.  Of course, if these lower waged, essential healthcare workers had managed to sneak onto Medicaid, under the Louisiana expansion, rare in the south, there would be no cost.  In Texas, no such luck, and same for a bunch of other states like Mississippi, Alabama, and the rest.

If they lived through it, welcome to medical debt.  On Wade’s World,  I was talking to an old colleague, Chuck Shuford, who has become an advocate demanding action on medical debt in rural Virginia where he lives now.  He talked about RIPMedicalDebt.org, where he has become involved.  They buy debt for pennies on the dollar.  Churches and others have pitched in to get rid of millions in debt, and they have created a special fund for Appalachia.

That’s a good thing, but for ResCare workers or anyone in the United States, there shouldn’t be any medical debt.  Period.  Why do we allow such a system?  Isn’t the coronavirus teaching us to build a better system?

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