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Sam Pullen, 31, honored his mother's spirit on October 15th by engaging in a sit-in at a Blue Cross in Los Angeles with a group of individuals who gathered to demand that insurance companies immediately grant approval for treatment of all their members with life-threatening conditions.
The sit-in was part of Mobilization for Health Care for All's nationwide sit-ins and protests held to bring attention to the need for a single-payer health care system in America.
Pullen was arrested for participating in the sit-in. Once in jail, he decided to pledge to stay in jail in L.A. until Blue Cross stops denying care to those that need it most.
I spoke to Pullen from his jail cell and we had an intensely powerful and moving conversation.
Pullen's mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer when he was a teenager. She was covered by Blue Cross when she wanted radiation and chemotherapy to treat the cancer, but when she found out she would need a bone marrow transplant if she expected to continue to live a bit longer, Blue Cross denied coverage for the procedure and claimed it was "experimental."
To fight death, Pullen's mom was put in the unfortunate situation of having to fight the insurance companies while also fighting her cancer. She staged a one-person sit-in and refused to leave until Blue Cross covered her transplant.
She managed to win coverage when she asked an insurance representative if they would give coverage if it meant having a few more years to spend with their kids.
Her willingness to fight taught Pullen "if you are being denied coverage by your insurance company and if your life is in danger, you need to fight. You need to stand up. You need to insist that you be covered."
obstacle to health care reform is that the insurance companies are standing in
the way. They're putting in lots of money to try and prevent health care
reform," said Pullen. "The insurance companies are clogging the heart of our
democracy with money to prevent a real health care system from taking place."
Pullen described the feeling he got from joining an action and sitting down and speaking up for health care reform and knowing it's going to make a difference for future generations as "one of the most liberating things" a person can do.
He said, as police took him away, he looked up and saw employees cheering those who had participated in the sit-in. It was "the most amazing feeling."
Pullen told me that being in jail has deepened his commitment to directly challenging health insurance companies.
Pullen is uninsured. He explained that many of his fellow inmates are as well.