The following is a guest post from Georgeanne Koeler, a Working America Community Action Team member from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Use our call tool to contact your representative about the Pennsylvania budget.
If you’re a Pennsylvanian, there are many things I know about you, even though we may have never met. You’re a neighborhood, come-join-me-on-my-porch, kind of person. You make sure that Santa Claus never skips a house on your block. You will do anything it takes to give a dying man another day of life. You are the greatness of Pennsylvania.
I worked at St. Francis Hospital from 1964 until the hospital closed in 2002. For most of those years I worked in the Psychiatry ward as a psychiatric aide. We loved caring for the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. I have to admit, caring for the poor was the best part of my job. It was at that hospital that I came to understand the meaning of healthcare. The meaning was healing: a healing of body, mind and spirit. A healing without a price tag attached.
In December of 2007, I was overwhelmed with despair when I found out that my brother Billy, a man with a gentle soul and a loving heart – a heart that didn’t always beat so good – was being denied life-saving cardiac care because he was first denied his right to buy a private health insurance policy. I wondered: When was it that healing was replaced with profit?
Billy applied for Medicaid, but as a pizza delivery driver he made too much money to qualify for that program. Billy died on March 7th, 2009. He was 57 years old. Folks on the street where he died did whatever they could do to give him back another day of life. A teenager folded his hoodie sweatshirt and placed it under Billy’s head in a gesture of comfort.
When it’s time for State Budget talks, I worry: Will this be the year we see deep cuts to Medicaid? This program is a lifeline for the poor and the working poor; for the mentally ill and children who suffer with Autism; for diabetics and their treatment; for a woman with MS; for a man who needs cardiac care; and for an elderly neighbor who needs nursing home care. They all need care, but without money, they may find themselves with no other option than to agree to hospice care.
I think Governor Tom Corbett and our legislators believe that if they cut the life line “for those folks” none of us will care. Maybe they expect that we, like them, will turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering and death of “those folks.”
But they will be wrong. What makes Pennsylvania the greatest state in the Union is that her citizens have a core belief that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. We will stand up, we will have our voice heard, and make no mistake about it, we will fight if our beliefs are put in jeopardy or challenged. We will win that fight because we are neighborhood, come-join-me-on-my-porch, kind of folks.
Thanks everyone, see you on your porch.